Dr. Sims-Muhummad Sees Service Learing Course as Opportunity to Advance Mentoring in Louisiana
Peer Mentoring Matters
Imagine a young girl saying that no one in her family has ever completed high school, let alone gone to college. Well I did not have to imagine it, because I heard and saw her make this statement and for me that startling reality demonstrated the real need for a mentoring program that could pair college students with high school students. Mentoring has many meanings for many different people. Mentoring people under the age of 18 not only has different meanings, but also presents a variety of challenging pathways to the mentoring process. Additionally, combine mentoring, a service learning project and college students and the dynamics are far beyond any conceivable impact.
Suffice to say that this mentoring program began as a service-learning project on a university campus - Internship in Community Organizations (ICO) Sociology 391. The mentoring program/service-learning project entails multiple learning dynamics. My initial vision was to create an opportunity for College students to learn first hand what it would be like to work within a fluid organization, e.g., an organization that is ever changing and evolving while interacting with inter-changeable clients and partners. After 3 weeks training, College Students Mentors (CSM) work independently by conducting mentoring sessions and determining the actual makeup and conduct of the sessions. During the semester, they receive additional training, site feedback, and site guidance about their process toward ICO goals.
Show me a “successful person” and I will almost certainly guarantee that they had a mentor, many of them before the age of 18. Often times, today, these rare but important (peer) mentoring opportunities are missed. Yet, arguably, these mentoring opportunities or relationships can mean the difference between success and failure, going to college or going to jail. Mentoring is a crucial aspect of a young child’s development. Mentoring between a young child and an older peer can have an even more significant impact. While the canon extensively highlights the importance of mentoring between children (under 18) and adults (typically over 30), the exploration of age relational or peer mentoring all but does not exist. That is one of the inspirations for this model.
Of all the necessities of life, education is the most paramount to personal development and upward mobility. In addition, mentoring facilitates educational outlook and attainment. Mentoring is building a personal relationship. Mentoring means that persons are involved in a direct communicative process where they seek to produce a positive productive relationship outcome. Mentoring involves connecting individuals who can have the most significant impact and improvement on behavior, attitude and activity.
What is Service Learning?
Service Learning is a process by which students can gain practical and real world, hands on experience that prepares them for “actual work.” Service learning produces the opportunities by which students can practice, refine and critique learned theories through fieldwork. Service learning also provides students the means critical examination of ideas (hypothesis) about the nature, scope and dynamics of organizations, institutions, events, situations and human behavior. Ultimately, service learning allows students the critical segue to respond and react to social, political, economic and human need through institutional and organizational agencies.
Learn and Serve America (LSA) called on colleges and universities across the U.S. to develop service learning opportunities for college and university students that involve direct high school youth mentoring. Specifically, LSA determined that there is an increasing need for service in America’s public school system, a need that could also foster service and learning opportunities for the countries more than 2 million college and university students.
Undergraduate students from the University of Louisiana Sociological Society, the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Child & Family Studies along with ICO College Student Mentors participate in the planning and implementing the service-learning program. They administer the Utilizing the Pathways for College Network: College Readiness for All assessment, which determines high school Mentees career readiness.
During mentoring sessions, College Student Mentors spend time talking with the High School Mentees about their concerns about college, assist them with completing the career assessment and encourage them to set high academic goals while in high school. The College Student Mentors show video clips, play career oriented games both in groups and individually with the mentees. College Student Mentors are encouraged to create activities that involve mentees one on one and as a group. The High School Mentees come to the university campus on several occasions such as football games, basketball games, lagniappe day, a fashion show and an academic achievement recognition program. All of these events provide them with real insight into multiple facets of university life.
Campus organizations such as the Student Government Association, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, the Black Faculty & Staff Caucus and the University Program Council participate. Community professionals including fashion designers, photographers, attorneys, social service workers, fire persons, and college professors meet with mentees and discuss career options, provide career insights and answer mentee questions. The High School Mentees express enthusiasm about meeting actual career professionals, many who are University of Louisiana at Lafayette graduates.
The Success Bound program believes that students can complete high school and is committed to providing the support needed to assure their success. By offering continuous mentoring to high school students, Success Bound addresses some of the deterrents that prevent African American students from high school graduation and enrollment in college. This spring 2012, we are elated to report that some of our first High School Mentees will graduate with plans to pursue college education!
Dr. Toni Sims-Muhammad is Assistant Professor, Sociology, Department of Sociology, Anthropology & Child/Family Studies and the Director, Internship in Community Organization (ICO) Success Bound. She can reached at University of Louisiana, Lafayette PO Box 40198 Lafayette, LA 70504
Phone: 337-482-6180, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.