Students of all ages are struggling with uncertainty, thanks to COVID-19 and the resulting educational pandemonium. Teachers and parents are working together to develop and maintain online coursework. In the midst of this, we need to remember that college students are not exempt from the stress created by closed institutions and online instruction. Fortunately, College Now Greater Cleveland can ease that stress and help them achieve their educational goals.
The College Now Mentoring Program can be especially helpful during crisis situations, such as the one the country faces right now with the novel coronavirus. As students are faced with massive changes while trying to finish their courses for the semester, mentors are vital to help students figure out how to adapt to remote learning, evaluate housing options, and deal with enrollment questions.
Cleveland Metropolitan School District superintendent, Eric Gordon, also announced recently that they are appealing to the State of Ohio so that anyone who is on track to graduate as of the third quarter will still receive their diploma. As part of this effort, they are encouraging students to complete application forms for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and Say Yes to Education as a way to show how eager Cleveland seniors are to finish strong.
College Now provides mentors and students with a curriculum to help them talk through challenging issues and situations and provides resources for students faced with financial, academic, or emotional hardship. Additionally, College Now employees follow mentors and students through the college experience, providing insight and advice to both parties throughout the four years (sometimes more!) of college.
When College Now Greater Cleveland launched its Mentoring Program in 2011, it asked potential mentors two fundamental questions: “When you were in college, did you have all the answers? Don’t you wish you had someone to help you figure it all out?”
For many individuals, the answers to those questions are “No, I definitely did NOT have all the answers. And yes, I would have loved to have someone to help me along the way!”
Most College Now scholarship recipients are from high-financial need backgrounds, and most are first-generation college students – which means they are the first in their families to go to college and, as such, don’t necessarily have the support at home to turn to when guidance is needed throughout the college-going process. College is a new environment for many of our students – academically, socially, and emotionally. College Now created the Mentoring Program to help address the need for support during this time.
The program pairs all College Now and Say Yes Cleveland scholarship recipients with a volunteer mentor in the Greater Cleveland community, someone who has been through the same experience, who can answer the student’s questions, provide guidance and insight, and serve as a steadfast supporter throughout the student’s college career. Moreover, Cleveland is the only Say Yes city in the country to require scholarship recipients to be paired with a mentor as part of their scholarship, thanks to the success of the College Now Mentoring Program.
The Mentoring Program also brings valuable social capital to its mentees. First-generation students often lack connections to the workforce and industries; the Mentoring Program helps bridge that gap and gives students a leg up into the working world that they can leverage throughout their school career. Mentors represent more than 600 employers across Northeast Ohio, offering a plethora of industry connections to students. They also provide an invaluable window into networking and social-capital building for students who likely haven’t had experience with professional relationships before.
The Mentoring team at College Now works intensely to make sure that students are matched with mentors who share their career or extracurricular interests so that students are placed into partnerships that will provide them with worthwhile career connections.
Community support for the Mentoring Program is overwhelming, with mentors representing some of the largest and most well-known institutions in Northeast Ohio. This vast community support is deeply appreciated, as College Now must recruit over 1,000 mentors each year to serve the next incoming class of scholarship recipients, which includes both College Now scholarship recipients and recipients of the Say Yes Cleveland scholarship.
The commitment is minimal – mentors commit to working with their student throughout the course of their college career, which includes exchanging messages twice per month via an online platform and meeting in person three times per year – but the results are powerful.
Mentors find that working with their mentees during their college career opens their own eyes to the challenges faced by today’s college students. Barbara, whose mentee, Sharareh, graduated recently, says that she learned “college students have many more challenges in their lives than just the academic portion. They worry about what is going on in their family, their friends, and, of course, worry about money. The decisions they need to make during their college years are difficult.”
Tom, who mentored Austin, notes that his mentee and he have built a great relationship over his college career: “We’ve really grown to be friends, and I am very proud of how he has matured and grown as a person at school. I like to think I have been able to offer him some useful tips and advice along the way on his classes, career, and personal life.”
College Now has already recruited 900 mentors to pair with students graduating this May, but the organization still needs to recruit another 100 to ensure every student is matched with a mentor. The need is especially critical now because students are coping with even more stress than usual.
Interested in becoming a mentor? All you need is Internet access, a college degree, and completion of the application and screening process. The application can be found on College Now’s website. To apply, please visit www.collegenowgc.org/become-a-mentor. You can contact Jabari Dorsey, Mentoring Program Manager, with any questions at 216.635.0268 or firstname.lastname@example.org.