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September 18, 2018

College Students Making Big Impact On Area Younger Students


OSWEGO, NY – Mentor-Scholar, a collaborative effort between the Oswego City School District, Fulton City School District, Red Creek Central School District, CiTi, and SUNY Oswego, provides local middle and high school students with the academic and social support of college mentors throughout the academic year.

Danny Miller (standing), the Team Leader for the 7 South Team, works with McKenzie Westberry and SUNY Oswego college mentor, Jessica Levasseur.

Danny Miller (standing), the Team Leader for the 7 South Team, works with McKenzie Westberry and SUNY Oswego college mentor, Jessica Levasseur.

“The Mentor-Scholar Program started five years ago at Oswego Middle School with about 15 participants. We have expended to Oswego High School, Fulton Junior High, Red Creek High School, Red Creek Middle School, and CiTi,” Emily DiFabio, assistant coordinator of the Mentor-Scholar Program, told Oswego County Today. “Currently this semester we have more than 120 mentors in the program mentoring more than 120 secondary students. The focus on the Mentor-Scholar Program is to provide academic and social support to adolescents in the community.”

The OCSD students, as well as the students in the other districts are provided the support of a SUNY Oswego undergraduate.

The mentors in the program enroll in a one-credit GST (general studies track) course, so they are able to earn credit while also developing skills necessary to aid them in their future careers and also impact the community in which they live.

“The middle school students are matched up, one-to-one, with their mentors,” Scott Ball, project coordinator of the Mentor-Scholar Program, said during a recent program session. “They come in and do some academic skill building. We give them academic as well as social support.”

The program works collaboratively with the school(s), the teachers, social workers and guidance counselors as well as the students, he explained.

They send an application home, “so students voluntarily sign up, they have to want to be there,” he said.

Between the two grades at OMS, they have between 75 to 100 students. The numbers vary in other schools.

The mentors receive some training as well as one credit hour in the fall and one credit hour in the spring for their service. Meetings are on Mondays or Wednesdays and Tuesdays or Thursdays around the districts.

Mentors who do a good job are asked if they’d like to be a “team leader” and actually help facilitate the sessions, and assist the other mentors. They aren’t assigned a specific mentee.

The mentors can be any class and any major, DiFabio said.

To help determine the younger students’ progress, how the student performs is tracked through the program and compared with where they were academically at the start.

Most of the teachers have reported seeing good results from the students, she noted.

“Between elementary school and middle school, it can be really difficult for some students. This helps them realize that their focus needs to be in certain areas of their studies and the mentors, are younger, and a bit easier to relate to than their teachers,” DiFabio pointed out.

The students list their goals, “My goal is to get a 95% on the fractions test next Friday” for example, and how they hope to achieve them, such as “I will stay after school twice this week to get extra help.” and “I will practice fractions with my mentor for 15 minutes at each session.”

They also log whether they accomplished what they set out to do.

Some people stick with the program for years.

“I was actually a mentor in the program. Then, I was the graduate assistant last year. Now, I am the assistant coordinator,” DiFabio said.

Dan Miller is in his second year of being a mentor.

“I love working with kids. This is a great program,” he said. “Once you get to know each other and the kids start to trust you and open up, you can really see the positive changes.”

As a team leader he goes around helping mentors and students as needed.

“And, after we hold a team meeting to go over everything, make sure things are going all right,” he said. “The mentors are a support for the mentees and the team leaders are the support for the mentors. You sign up for the whole year and try to make a relationship with the mentees; there are some, however, that don’t stay for the whole year.”

There are field trips during the program.

The students recently went on a bowling outing and also visited the chemistry lab at SUNY Oswego.

“There’s a lot of (mentors) following their students along in each grade. We really build a bond with them,” DiFabio said. “We have about four or five mentors who are graduates of OHS and wanted to come back and be a part of this program.”

“It’s kind of what pulled me in,” the Oswego grad continued. “I went to OMS. I know the building. I know what they are going through. It does help; it gives you a little more relateability.”

Olivia Coppeletti, a SUNY Oswego junior, sees the positive impact of being a mentor.

“You get to see how your mentee has progressed at the end of each semester and it’s really awesome to see their grades pick up,” she said. “They become more comfortable with you. They all have their weaker subjects and we do our best to help them improve. You encourage them to work harder, if they do this or that, their grades will go up. Just having somebody (for the kids) to talk to is a huge thing. It’s less intimidating to talk to someone who closer in age to them.”

“They come in kind of shy and intimidated. But, once you get to know them, build a relationship with them – they start to open up and you can see their confidence growing as their grades improve,” she continued. “As the program progresses, they look forward to seeing you every week. You form a real bond with your mentees.”

For more information, call Ball at 315-312-3812.

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