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Supporting Young Vermonters from Elementary School Through High School Graduation and Beyond
Mobius believes that every young person in Vermont who wants a mentor should have that opportunity, from their early school years until they successfully enter adulthood. The K-12 Mentoring Initiative is a multi-year project, in collaboration with direct-service mentoring programs, to create the statewide infrastructure needed to turn this vision into a reality. Click on each of the section headers below for more information.
With Mobius’ support, the more than 140 adult-to-youth mentoring program sites in Vermont are making significant progress in addressing the mentoring need, as of today ensuring that around 2,300 young people are receiving the benefits of having a mentor. Still, the gap remains large. (Show More/Less)
Based on the results of The Mentoring Effect, Mobius believes there are more than 15,000 youth in Vermont who are still in strong need of a mentor. Furthermore, for those youth who are receiving mentoring services, there are significant barriers to them continuing to have a mentor as they get older.
While support for youth during their primary years is important, the transition into adolescence is a critical crossroads in a young person’s life. Based on multiple studies by Big Brothers Big Sisters and MENTOR, youth with mentors are significantly less likely to skip school, and more likely to go to college. Mentors introduce their mentees to new experiences, and help them explore their interests and goals. They play an integral role by encouraging their teen mentees to explore, visit, and apply for college and other post-secondary educational opportunities. And while the minimum length for a mentor match is one school or calendar year, according to MENTOR, “longer-term mentoring relationships are consistently associated with more benefits to youth than shorter-term relationships.”
According to the Vermont Agency of Education and Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, while Vermont has one of the higher high school graduation rates in the country at 88%, there is a significant post-secondary gap. While nearly 75% of high school seniors express interest in attending post-secondary education, only 59% end up enrolling. And for youth known to be living in poverty, that percentage drops even lower. Based on data from the J. Warren and Lois McClure Foundation, only 37% of youth from low-income households end up pursuing any additional education after graduating from high school.
Mentors who work with older youth are well positioned to be a resource to promote post-secondary education with their mentee. The results of the 2016 Vermont Mentoring Surveys show that nearly 75% of mentors in the state currently play an active role in their mentee’s education. Mobius is working with its program partners in the Initiative to explore ways to better support mentors in this area.
There are four primary barriers preventing youth in Vermont from having the opportunity to be matched with a mentor through high school:
- A scarcity of mentoring programs in more rural areas of the state (such as the Northeast Kingdom)
- In areas that do have mentoring programs, a lack of program options for older youth
- In parts of the state that have programs that serve younger youth and others that serve older youth, the lack of an organized system for transitioning matches from one program to another
- A lack of capacity for existing programs to take on new mentees or support matches that transition from another program
While the first two barriers require identifying new agencies or schools interested in starting programs, the third barrier can be addressed by developing a more connected and collaborative infrastructure within the existing network of mentoring programs.
Traditionally this meant that when a mentee ages out of a program that only serves youth in a set age range, the match would simply end or the mentor and mentee would continue to meet unofficially, without the oversight and risk management of a formalized program.
Youth still in need of support were left to navigate their transition into adolescence without having a mentor. Furthermore, in the instances in which a youth was fortunate enough to be referred to another mentoring program that worked with older youth down the line, the new program was required to invest valuable staff time into recruiting, screening, and training a new mentor to support him or her. Having an established transition system in place between the two programs would have allowed the match to continue meeting through that new program at a fraction of the cost and with no gap in services for the youth.
The fourth barrier is specifically a financial impediment, and requires Mobius and mentoring agencies to continue to seek new funds for adding additional staffing to those existing programs that are near or at capacity.
The K-12 Vision
Since 2015, Mobius has been partnering with more than 20 mentoring agencies and 100 mentoring program sites that Mobius awards grant funding for to begin turning the K-12 vision into a reality. (Show More/Less)
Mobius provides funding for agencies to plan and launch new mentoring programs, as well as continued support for existing programs that are meeting best practices. Mobius also offers support and resources for program staff and mentors, and connects programs with one another so that matches can transition as the mentee ages out of the original program. In addition to facilitating collaboration between programs serving younger youth and those serving teenagers, Mobius is also working to help programs that serve youth of all ages expand capacity and enhance the training and support they provide for youth during adolescence, particularly with helping to provide mentees with information and resources about post-secondary education. Each program partner in the Initiative is also required to complete the Quality Mentoring System, a program assessment process based on MENTOR’s national quality standards.
Through the K-12 Mentoring Initiative, Mobius also provides mentoring programs access to management systems that programs, the majority of which are managed by part-time staff, don’t have the capacity to develop on their own. These resources include a searchable statewide directory of programs and mentor referral system, a program management database, a quality assurance system to ensure and assist programs in meeting best practices, and a program evaluation survey process.
Mobius also provides direct assistance to the approximately 2,300 volunteer adult mentors in the state, helping mentors feel more supported, making mentoring more convenient and affordable, and helping youth feel more connected to their community. The Mobius Mentor Discount Card provides discounts at more than 100 business locations for match activities ranging from dinner to rock climbing. The Mobius Community Service Program encourages mentors to volunteer in the community with their mentee.
Current and Future Goals
Over the past two years, Mobius has formalized and expanded collaborative partnerships between mentoring programs to allow mentor matches to transition from one program to another, so that mentor matches do not end simply because a young person moves or ages out of a program. In 2016-2017, Mobius expanded capacity by providing funding and support for two new high school-based mentoring programs in school districts that previously supported mentoring only through middle school. In addition, Mobius helped support specialized populations by launching a new program that works with New American youth through adolescence, and supported the second year of a program that matches adults with disabilities as mentors for high school students with disabilities. (Show More/Less)
In 2017-2018, Mobius and its partners plan to launch new programs with the capacity to support both younger and older youth, and addressing a specific unmet need: higher needs youth in Lamoille County, youth affected by the opiate epidemic in the Randolph area, and youth in the foster care system.
Additionally, Mobius is exploring ways for mentors to help address the post-secondary gap. Based on the 2016 Vermont Mentoring Surveys, more than 74% of mentors are playing an active role in their mentee’s education. By providing mentors with specialized training and resources, Mobius hopes to help assist the larger effort among guidance counselors and other youth service providers to help youth identify career opportunities that match up with their interests, and the post-secondary education required to pursue them.
Mobius will also continue to work to ensure that programs in schools affected by school and district mergers remain active and valued by their school communities. Over the next few years, Mobius will be working toward filling programming gaps in areas of the state where there are few or no mentoring programs currently in operation or a lack of program options available for older youth such as the Northeast Kingdom, Lamoille County, and parts of Addison County.
Supporters of the K-12 Mentoring Initiative
The K-12 Mentoring Initiative is made possible through funding support from the A.D. Henderson Foundation, the Bay and Paul Foundations, the Francis T. and Louise T. Nichols Foundation, and the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children.