Mentoring is Courage in Action

By: Mike Di Marco, Chief of Strategy at Higher Achievement

A recent episode of the Mentoring Minutes podcast begins with a quote by well-known American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, “Courage may be the most important of all virtues because without it we cannot practice any other virtues with consistency.”

Host Robin Cox then reminds us that “it takes courage for a volunteer adult mentor to step out of their comfort zone into the unknown and enter into a mentoring relationship with an adolescent mentee who is journeying through one of the most confusing times of their lives.”

A key component of Higher Achievement’s success is our mentoring program that builds a rich community and exposes Higher Achievement scholars to new perspectives and many forms of support. Our mentors are passionate and committed role models from various backgrounds who dedicate one night a week to deliver a formal academic curriculum and build strong relationships with our scholars. Some grew up in the same communities as the scholars they mentor, others grew up in other parts of the country or world. Some live in the city; others commute from the suburbs.

At a time when our scholars’ brains are craving new information, new experiences, and someone to help them process the changes that are occurring on a daily basis — our mentors are there for them. At a time when it is developmentally appropriate to test boundaries, take risks, and challenge authority — our mentors are there for our scholars providing structured choice, healthy risks, and guidance on creating change in one’s life and community. Night after night. Week after week. Year after year.

Research shows that middle school is the last, best chance to get students on track for college and career success. By sharing their own life experiences from high school, college, and career, Higher Achievement mentors help our scholars navigate what are at times uncharted and tumultuous waters.

Our mentors not only teach our scholars how to divide fractions or create thesis statements, they also help our scholars’ set goals and achieve them by checking in on their progress and offering words of encouragement and resources to build self-efficacy.

For at least 15 years, Higher Achievement has been operating at the vanguard of research and practice of middle school youth development. To continue leading the charge toward better opportunities for scholars and greater prosperity for communities, Higher Achievement has identified one crucial goal: to leverage its middle school programming to equip more scholars with the confidence and skills to make it to and through college.

And we know our mentors are the secret sauce. Matching mentors and scholars based on shared interests and compatibility helps students develop academic skills — which gives them the confidence to succeed in the classroom, increases engagement in school, and launches a virtuous cycle that results in greater academic achievement and opportunities.

When Higher Achievement scholars are asked about their favorite part of Higher Achievement, “mentoring” is always the top selection, and it’s no surprise.  Each week, our scholars look forward to their mentor who is just as likely to help them navigate a difficult algebra problem as they are to help them navigate the best way to peacefully resolve a conflict with their best friend.

Right now, we are looking for hundreds of courageous volunteers who are willing to join us in transforming the trajectory for individual scholars and their communities. Won’t you have the courage to act now?

To sign up or refer a friend to be a Higher Achievement mentor, please click here.