Work with Staff to Provide Support, Services and Intervention
Success mentors aren’t expected to address the challenges facing their mentees or their families on their own. A success mentor’s job is to help identify what would help motivate a student to attend school as well as uncover the reasons behind the chronic absence and to work together with the appropriate school staff to connect the mentee and their family with targeted support services. But if a mentor has built a strong relationship with the student, she or he may be the best person to encourage a family to connect with an available service.
A key resource for success mentors is the principal led team that coordinates attendance improvement efforts including the success mentoring initiative. If a success mentor faces a challenge connecting with a student, securing a needed resource or addressing a particular barrier, the mentor needs to able to turn to the school team for assistance. Mentors need to be able to communicate with the team members to express concerns or share success. One option is to identify a site director who can stay in contact with success mentors and ensure strong lines of communication with the school team. Mentor insights about the challenges facing students can also be used to inform the school’s overall strategy for improving attendance.
In addition to addressing barriers to attendance, mentors play a critical role in fostering a safety net of support and learning through enrichment activities that can help motivate a student to show up. The majority of America’s 50 million school-aged students spend less than 20 percent of their waking hours in the classroom each year. That means that kids are spending 80 percent of their time out of school. Informed by an understanding of a mentee’s interests and passions, success mentors can encourage families of mentees to take advantage of available afterschool and summer learning programs in their schools and neighborhoods.
Attendance Works suggests using an approach that emphasizes taking time to build a relationship with a student and their family before trying to engage them in problem solving around reducing absences. It recommends the following process: Learn, Share, Inform, Discuss, Ask and Arrive at a Plan.
What Success Mentors can do to Connect Mentees to Summer Learning
Summer is a time of the greatest inequities with too many families, especially those living in poverty, losing access to critical supports. Regular attendance in high-quality summer programs is associated with a range of positive academic and social development outcomes, according to research.
Research also makes clear that three to four consecutive summers of high quality learning beginning in preschool can get students on track for reading in third grade and makes them four times more likely to graduate. High quality summer learning opportunities mix fun and healthy activities with learning, like taking field trips to cultural institutions, playing sports, and competing in computer math game challenges. Here are five ways success mentors can help.
Suggested Reading for Success Mentors: E-book − Summers Matter: 10 Things Every Parent, Teacher & Principal Should Know About June, July & August
See National Summer Learning Association for more resources and ideas.