“Experience is not what happens to a man.
It is what a man does with what happens to him.”
The Baylor University Mentoring program, founded by Cassie Findley and Rosemary Townsend, began as an extension of the Baylor University Peer Education program. As the Peer Educators presented their material on subjects such as alcohol and substance abuse; sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS; and eating disorders, the viewing audiences evaluated the presentations. From these evaluations, we discovered a need for positive role models and involvement that surpassed mere awareness on these subjects.
It was this review of the existing programs that prompted the development of a mentoring program at Baylor University in the fall of 1992. The program’s mission statement:
Community Mentoring for Adolescent Development (CMAD) seeks to assist the McLennan County Youth Collaboration and Communities in Schools in the effort to provide academic, social, and emotional support to middle school youth in the Waco Independent School District. Our aim is to provide new friendships and role models to the next generation, empowering them to succeed in their every endeavor.
Thus began a more thorough effort to address the needs of students in at-risk environments. Students described as at-risk are those children whose environment, circumstances, and resulting attitudes may discourage them from completing high school or from going on to a productive adulthood in society and the workplace (Attachment A: Who is at Risk?). CMAD was designed to significantly reduce the overrepresentation of minority and socio-economically deprived children entering the criminal justice system. In order to implement such a program, Findley and Townsend secured funding for the program through the Cooper Foundation, the Texas State Criminal Justice Division (CJD), and, most recently, the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA).
It is essential to recall that CMAD was founded on the principles of the old African proverb: “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” Goals of the program include improving the student’s self-esteem, creating opportunities for community experiences, being available as a good listener, and helping achieve academic improvement, among others. The Community Mentoring program continues to provide living proof that through community collaboration, resources can be utilized more effectively to foster positive growth and the expansion of opportunities for Waco’s children, families, and schools.
Baylor University, McLennan County Youth Collaboration, Waco Independent School District, and the City of Waco Neighborhood Development Program formed a coalition to address the serious issues that youth of Waco face. From this, Findley, Director of Baylor’s Health Education and Wellness Program, designed and developed the initial curriculum and evaluation process to be utilized in the year-long, thorough training sessions in which all mentors enroll. Graduate students were hired to supervise the mentors in their ongoing relationships at the schools and to assist with the in-class training sessions. The CMAD curriculum was approved by Baylor officials to be included in the Civic Education course offerings. The Civic Education courses offer Baylor students the opportunity to receive course credit for community involvement.
The CMAD program design implements a three-tiered approach. The first tier of the program, the mentor training course offered through the Baylor University Civic Education Department, acts as a catalyst for change in the community by providing mentors with skill-development training. The second tier matches a Baylor mentor with a child who has been identified as high risk and his or her parents. By working with both the child and the parents, the goals of improving self-esteem, academic performance, and school attendance, and decreasing the number of students who enter the criminal justice system are more readily achievable. This approach also strengthens the family’s bond with the community. The third tier supports these children as they endeavor to become a part of the solution to the problem by developing for them a community guide, “Natural Highs,” which outlines healthy and creative activities for both the children and their parents in McLennan County.
In order for a mentoring program to be successful, several components are needed. A site where the mentor and mentee can meet is essential to developing a relationship. The site often works best when set up on the school campus. The McLennan County Youth Collaboration’s “Lighted School” program and the sites chosen for CMAD utilize campus classrooms and art rooms at the participating middle schools in Waco, thus providing a safe, neutral setting for the mentoring relationship. The Lighted School program was designed to provide middle school children a safe and fun environment in which to learn and play after school. Various physical and social activities are provided by participating community groups and organizations that dedicate their time to the Lighted School program. The Lighted School program is an extension of the Communities in Schools (CIS) program, which provides social work services to children on a case management basis throughout the school year (Attachment B: Communities in Schools).
Finally, the most important component of a mentoring initiative is community collaboration. When community organizations are combined and resources are shared, more services can be provided for the children. The first step when beginning any community mentoring project should be to identify all potential service providers and urge them to work in providing services to local youth. Interested organizations might include local healthcare groups, drug and alcohol education groups, violence prevention groups, the local library, Junior League, Girl Scouts, YMCA/YWCA, and local museums and fine art organizations. See Attachment C for a list of the Support Service providers utilized by Baylor’s CMAD program.
It takes a special person to be a mentor. The individual must have patience, dedication, commitment, and a real desire to be a positive role model. By means of a three-step screening process involving an application, criminal background check, and personal interview, the CMAD staff evaluates potential mentors. First, the mentor must fill out an application (Attachment D: CMAD Application). The application asks not only for employment history, references, and permission to do a criminal background check, but also about previous involvement in programs or activities that involve young people, and why the student is interested in becoming a mentor. Language proficiency in other languages is also determined as bilingual mentors are always needed in McLennan County.
After the CMAD staff review the application, the applicant is contacted for a personal interview. This face-to-face contact can prove helpful in determining the student’s attitude toward the mentoring program and his or her commitment level. Prospective mentors are asked to elaborate on responses to application questions. The requirements of the CMAD class are thoroughly explained, the course syllabus reviewed (Attachment E: CMAD Syllabus), and the importance of his or her commitment to the mentee is emphasized. Students with heavy course loads or several jobs may be troubled at the thought of a two-hour per week commitment for an entire year. For others, the opportunity to influence a child’s life is an exciting challenge. Usually, by the close of the interview, it is clear to both applicant and staff member whether or not CMAD is an appropriate program for the student. If the student is excited about and dedicated to being a mentor, the CMAD staff contact the university registrar’s office and clear the student for the class.
Presumably, most mentors come into the program motivated. Even the most optimistic students, however, can get frustrated with the ups and downs of developing a relationship with an adolescent. Classroom training provides a supportive atmosphere for the mentors to share ideas and frustrations and receive encouragement from staff and peers. This supportive environment is continued second semester during the monthly meetings for returning mentors and through weekly e-mail contact. Additionally, each student has a specific graduate student to whom he or she reports. The graduate student encourages open communication so that problems can be addressed and ameliorated. The graduate students serve as liaisons among the CIS workers, Lighted School officials, MCYC staff, and the mentors. The mentors must also complete a weekly journal form (Attachment F: Journal Form) that allows for feedback from the week’s mentoring session, and allows graduate students to catch potential problems before they develop. The fact that the students are taking CMAD for one hour of either elective or physical education course credit is a strong incentive to dedicate themselves to the program.
An important factor in predicting successful mentoring relationships and in motivating volunteers is having mentees who are motivated to participate in the program. For instance, many children will indicate interest in having a mentor simply because their peers want a mentor, when actually they are not prepared to dedicate the time or necessary consistency to the relationship. This can result in mentees who would rather play with their friends or who suddenly have other commitments that keep them from meeting with their mentor. When children are obviously not willing to put any effort into the relationship, a serious talk and subsequent change needs to occur. For these reasons, CMAD requires that mentees sign a contract (attached to the mentee application) to formally indicate the child’s desire to both have a mentor and be committed to a mentoring relationship (Attachment G: Student Interest Inventory).
Finally, CMAD funding sources allow for most Baylor mentors to receive tuition remission for the class. This gift of one hour of tuition is the program’s way of thanking the student for investing time in changing a child’s life.
Criminal history inquiries are conducted on each student by CMAD’s partner organization, McLennan County Youth Collaboration. CMAD complies with the Texas Education Code Section 21.917, which requires school districts to obtain criminal history record information on all volunteers and applicants for employment. CIS is required by funding sources to follow similar procedures. Attachment H: Sample Forms includes several suggestions for implementing a screening element to a mentoring program as well as example forms for criminal background checks. The forms are provided by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
For the sake of protecting both the children and the mentors who serve them, the Baylor CMAD program does not permit mentors to transport a mentee in the mentor’s own vehicle. Many of the mentees, however, arrange to be dropped off at a movie, for example, and meet their mentor there. This provides a safe way for off-campus interactions, when desired by the pair. Although certainly not mandatory, the CMAD program encourages this type of additional interaction.*
*Requirements about performing background checks vary greatly from state to state, as do the availability, cost, and turnaround time. Mentoring programs can consider using SafetyNET to access FBI fingerprint background checks, at a cost of $18 with a response time of one week. More information is available at www.mentoring.org/safetynet.
Successful marketing requires first determining which audiences are being targeted. If recruiting mentors in the community, local university, college, or community college, students are excellent resources to consider. Also, faith organizations and large local businesses often have community service interests that may match well with a mentoring program.
At Baylor, target markets have been identified and reached with a combination of public relations pieces including brochures, flyers, e-mail, announcements in club meetings, newspaper stories, public service announcements on campus radio, and announcements on marquees across campus.
Marketing the CMAD program is essential to the program’s success. Without recruitment of mentors, new mentors would not be identified. Without marketing, Baylor students would be unaware of the program and its benefits. CMAD takes several approaches to marketing. First is the process of targeting students most likely to be interested in CMAD, such as education, social work, and sociology majors, and other students involved in helping professions.
Before marketing a new initiative, it is important to determine a specific message to appeal to target groups and then create promotional materials that convey that message to distribute among potential mentors and community resource providers.
One of the most effective communication strategies has proven to be electronic mail. The Baylor e mail system is popular and used daily by the majority of students. A list is established from all the student’s e-mail addresses and mailings are sent out with program descriptions and application information.
Baylor also creates and distributes CMAD brochures and flyers. The flyers are worded in first person, from the child’s perspective, asking the reader to spend time and play with the child. These are posted around campus and are eye-catching to many students. CMAD staff have also found that honors students and Baylor athletes often are interested in mentoring and can make excellent role models. Each semester, CMAD targets these students’ advisors, sending them a letter about CMAD, the course credit it provides, and a packet of applications and brochures in the hope that these advisors will help recruit their students. Other marketing approaches might include targeting local faith organizations and local corporations through their community service coordinators.
During the summer months, incoming freshmen attend a two-day orientation on campus that involves registration for fall courses and extensive information on ways to get involved at Baylor. The CMAD staff are available to explain the program for new students. If a student is excited about and motivated to become a mentor, the CMAD staff contact the university registrar’s office and clear the student for the class.
One effective tool for ongoing marketing is to constantly take pictures at the mentoring site and of mentors doing different activities. Community service projects make for great pictures. They are not only great activities in which to engage the child and provide a role model, but also serve as a natural draw for media coverage. CMAD has participated in Christmas ornament making, where the children and their mentors decorate dough ornaments with the help of local art representatives who conduct weekly programs with the children in the Lighted School program. Pictures are taken during the making of the ornaments, and then at the local nursing home, where the mentors and CMAD officials help hang the ornaments. Pictures of the children who made the ornaments are shown to the residents and pictures of the residents enjoying/hanging the ornaments are taken back to the children. Other service projects have involved planting flowers on the child’s school campus, promoting involvement in taking care of their school. Inviting local newspaper reporters who cover the community or education beat to attend events, such as flower planting or Christmas ornament making/hanging, is a good way to draw media attention and raise awareness of the program.
Newsletters are an easy, mailable, public relations tool that can be sent to those who have a vested interest in mentoring initiatives. Including upcoming event information makes it easy for media organizations to cover events.
Because CMAD is grant-funded, documentation of results must be provided. The goal of CMAD is to improve the lives of local middle school students. Specifically, the goals include decreasing absenteeism, decreasing gang involvement, improving academic performance, improving conduct, and decreasing use of controlled substances. This information is provided by the middle school CIS workers who are licensed social workers dedicated to referring students to appropriate community resources. When a mentee requests a mentor or the CIS worker identifies a good candidate for the mentoring program, the child fills out an application and signs a commitment form. The CIS worker then completes an attached sheet that lists the above areas and is divided into a “before” and an “after” section (Attachment I: Student Interest Inventory). “Before” information is the information on the above factors before the mentee is paired with a mentor. “After” information is the same information recorded by the CIS worker after the child has been paired with a mentor for a year. For the Final Report for the CMAD Criminal Justice Grant, covering the period September 1, 1996 to August 31, 1997, our results were as follows: CMAD participants exhibited a 76 percent increase in students with good attendance, 84 percent increase in students passing their coursework, 60 percent decrease in students who were suspended from school, 82 percent increase in students who followed school rules, and 79 percent decrease in students who participated in gangs. Keeping accurate statistics will help with marketing efforts and in recruiting new mentors in the future.
Because mentoring was one commitment of “America’s Promise,” funding sources are generally receptive to funding mentoring initiatives. Although state and federal sources are good options for strong, well-established programs, leaders of new programs should look first to local private foundations, non-profit centers, and other similar sources for financial assistance.
MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership maintains a network of State and Local Mentoring Partnerships whose mission is to provide technical assistance to programs in their state. These organizations can provide valuable guidance in setting up new programs; training mentors, mentees, and program staff; finding funding sources; connecting youth-based organizations with potential mentor sources; and ongoing advice for establishing and sustaining best practices in mentoring design, management, operations, and evaluation. A list of the current partnerships follows (February 19, 2003). This is an expanding network and up-to-date lists will be found at www.mentoring.org/state_partnerships/state_localprofiles.adp?entry=home.
Mentor/National Mentoring Partnership
Mentoring Partnerships Roster