It didn’t take long for Cam to discover Bates White’s passion for Higher Achievement scholars. Shortly after moving to DC and joining the economic consulting firm in 2019, Cam heard about the close partnership between Bates White and Higher Achievement at a volunteer recruitment presentation from Higher Achievement staff members. Cam was immediately impressed by the randomized control trial studies demonstrating the effectiveness of Higher Achievement’s program model and decided to join the Bates White volunteer cohort.
“Being a consistent presence in the lives of scholars is really rewarding,” says Cam. “Scholars learn a lot from the curriculum and it’s great to see them making amazing progress academically, but I really value just showing up for them and seeing how excited they are to have someone interested in their lives.”
Cam especially felt the relational impact of mentoring in the transition to virtual programming in 2020 and the return to in-person programming in the 2021-2022 school year. “Hybrid learning and quarantining was a big challenge organizationally. We all did our best, but scholars were tired of being on Zoom all day,” affirms Cam.
Two of Cam’s scholars were initially hesitant about remote mentoring. Over time, they formed a close relationship with Cam and his co-mentor and bonded over virtual games they played together each week. “It was another way to connect in addition to the curriculum.” says Cam. “In a year where everything was so isolated, it became one of the most fun parts of my week to play games with my scholars and talk about our weeks.” At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, Cam was able to finally meet his scholars at an end-of-year kickball game. “They were so excited to see me and meet me in person for the first time,” remembers Cam.
Ms. Mena, Higher Achievement’s Ward 8 Learning Coordinator, is grateful for the commitment of Bates White mentors like Cam. “Mentors like Mr. Cam are the reason why Higher Achievement is a go-to outlet for our scholars. He goes above and beyond to make sure all of the Bates White Mentors are accommodated, on time, and up to date with any center logistics,” says Mena. “Our annual basketball tournament is where Mr. Cam’s personality truly glows. All of our scholars want to go toe-to-toe with Mr. Cam during our tournaments. His great basketball skills and competitive pep talks leading up to tournaments bring joy to our scholars and our entire Ward 8 staff. Scholars are always so excited to work with him and their faces light up when he enters the space.”
Now in his third year as a mentor, Cam is excited to have returned to in-person programming alongside scholars and his Bates White colleagues. For over 15 years, Bates White has had a consistent presence at the Ward 8 Achievement Center, sending groups of 8-12 mentors each year—an effort which Cam now coordinates alongside a fellow mentor and Bates White employee. Volunteers from Bates White mentor at the same site on the same day and meet to take the metro together. The consistent partnership builds community among the Bates White staff and creates stability at Higher Achievement’s Ward 8 Center. “It’s cool to see our relationships with scholars grow from year to year and we’ve gotten to know Ms. Mena really well,” says Cam.
For Cam, mentoring has been a way to strengthen bonds with his colleagues at Bates White, and with the city he now calls home. “As someone new to the area, I’ve really enjoyed getting to meet people who grew up in DC, especially since it’s a place where people come and go. Mentoring is another way I feel more connected to my city and community.”
Higher Achievement is proud to partner with Bates White and mentors like Cam who create a community where scholars are encouraged and supported in their journey through middle school and beyond.