ONLINE MENTORS READY TO RAVE ABOUT COLLEGE
A group of Berea College students spent their Saturday afternoon preparing to serve as mentors for middle and high school students in GEAR UP schools that are miles away from Berea’s campus. The mentors have a plan to reach the students despite the distance—Skype.
Paula Wilder, associate director for Partners for Education at Berea College, prepared the eleven college students for a Skype-mentoring program called Readiness Achievement in a Virtual Environment, or RAVE. Wilder showed these future mentors how to set up a Skype account and instructed them on what to expect when they start mentoring the 8th and 9th graders.
The program is a product of Wilder’s observations from working with Berea College’s GEAR UP Partnership. She noticed the difficulty in recruiting community members and how mentors and students’ availability was one of the biggest challenges to the mentoring program. “So I started thinking, and I thought that if we started a virtual mentoring program, it would eliminate some of those obstacles in terms of money, and transportation, and logistical issues that went on in the schools,” Wilder said.
Zunilda Lynch, a College Preparation Assistant for GEAR UP, instructed the students on the ins-and-outs of Skype. She started off by showing the mentors where and how to create their Skype account and what specifics they needed to know, such as the format of their usernames.
Next, Wilder and Missy Wilkins, program director for College for Every Student, talked with the mentors about the Confidentiality Agreement Form. The instructors explained the importance of following the contract. “When you’ve got a mentee that’s in 8th grade and they are communicating with a college student, they may press some issues, maybe ask inappropriate questions,” Wilder said. “I haven’t seen that a lot, but I just want to cover the basics just in case any of [the mentors] have to deal with something like that.”
Wilder then educated the future mentors about what they should expect from the mentees in the next month or so. Wilder has carefully designed the first few weeks so that both the mentors and the students feel comfortable getting to know each other. Beyond this initial schedule, the mentors will decide how to spend the thirty minutes allotted to them and their students. Wilder believes the power of mentoring is in its simplicity. “It’s an older caring adult basically developing a friendship with a younger person,” she said.
RAVE hopes to help all of the students achieve readiness for college and is always looking for new mentors. The program has about five-thousand students who need mentoring and each one is required to receive a thirty-minute session of mentoring every two weeks, and as Wilder said, “That’s a pretty big challenge.”
To find out more about RAVE, contact Paula Wilder at (859) 985-3286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.