Carlos Gomez, tenth grader at Ánimo College Preparatory Academy (ACPA), felt that having a mentor in his life would help him see new things, get out of his comfort zone, and explore the world outside of his community; however, when the opportunity presented itself, he admits he was a bit reluctant at first. “In the beginning I didn't really like communicating with my mentor, because I didn't know if I could trust him and if he was going to be a person who would come in my life and then walk out,” recalled Gomez. But as Gomez and his mentor Fredric Noriega, Lead Mathematics Curriculum Specialist at Green Dot Public Schools in California, got to know each other, they formed a real bond. “He’s like family, I consider him to be a great mentor, because we inspire each other to work hard and discover how we can both change the world.”
“He’s like family, I consider him to be a great mentor, because we inspire each other to work hard and discover how we can both change the world.” -- Carlos Gomez, 10th Grader at ACPA & Promise Program Mentee
For Noriega, the Promise Program, Green Dot’s student mentorship program, allowed him to learn about the communities and students Green Dot serves and establish a genuine relationship with Gomez. Noriega’s fondest memory wasn’t the college tours they took together, or the time they drove go-karts, but one of their many study sessions. “One of my favorite moments was right before the semester ended we had a study session at a local coffee shop, and we took a study break and played a game of Uno.”
We have always worked with our partners and the community to provide external mentorship opportunities to our students. The Promise Program was established by David Nunez, Green Dot Coordinator of After School and Student Mentor Programs, and Suruchi Srikanth, Strategic Planning Manager, to help students build positive relationships with a Green Dot Home Office employee who supports their individual needs.
The program helps students embrace new ideas and perspectives by exposing them to new career opportunities, introducing students to different communities, and supporting them as they make strides towards achieving their academic goals. Mentors work with mentees to review their academic goals and discuss the necessary steps to be successful in college, leadership, and life. Often times, it can be more difficult for students to travel beyond their neighborhood, so the Promise Program encourages groups of mentors and mentees to explore experiences outside a student’s community, and therein expose students to new places, ideas, and opportunities.
The Mentor Effect
While people of all backgrounds have benefited from their relationships with mentors and role models, mentorship programs have proven to have an even more pronounced impact for youth from underserved communities.
Countless studies have shown that positive adult role models boost students chances of success in and outside of the classroom. According to a study by Public/Private Ventures, students who meet regularly with a mentor are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class. “What mattered to the children were not the activities. It was the fact that they had a caring adult in their lives,” reported Public/Private Ventures. “Because they had someone to confide in and to look up to, they were, in turn, doing better in school and at home.”
The National Mentoring Partnership reported that at-risk youth who have mentors are 55% more likely to enroll in college and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions. While Youth.gov reported that attendance, academics, and classroom engagement all improve among students with mentors. This is often attributed to the emotional and social experiences students encounter through their relationship with their positive adult role models.
Last year at ACPA, 20 home office employees mentored 21 ninth graders. Mentors and mentees spent over 80 hours together, participated in over 40 mentor and mentee outings, and three large group mentoring events. Removing barriers to students learning and success is at the heart of our mission, and one of the reasons the Promise Program is successful. “The Promise Program introduced me to a lot of new things I never tried before, and really opened up my mind,” recalled Shia’ton Bell, tenth grader at ACPA.
“The Promise Program introduced me to a lot of new things I never tried before, and really opened up my mind.” -- Shia’ton Bell, 10th grader at ACPA
When we asked, all of the mentors and mentees, they reported that they had a positive experience. For students, the Promise Program supported them in navigating the academic, social, and emotional changes that occur in the transition to high school. “I’d recommend the Promise Program to other students, because you get to know people you would have never met otherwise, but they can’t have my mentor,” joked Eileen Morales, tenth grader at ACPA.
All About the Students
When Sheena Hess, Human Capital Recruiter at Green Dot, heard about the Promise Program, she knew she had to be involved. “When I was in college I had the opportunity to mentor a fifth grade student, and we are still incredibly close to this day,” recalled Hess. “As soon as David and Suruchi mentioned that this was an opportunity, there was nothing that was going to stop me from participating.”
Being a mother of three, Green Dot Community Manager Cecilia Vazquez has always tried to seek out other positive role models to help inspire and guide her own children. “I joined because there is a real need for these types of opportunities, especially in the communities that we serve,” said Vazquez. “Like so many professionals, I have a lot on my plate, but I knew the impact mentors could make in the lives of students and I wanted to be a part of that.” Through last school year, Vazquez and her mentee built a strong relationship. “From the beginning I gave her the space to shape the experience and let her choose what she wanted to get out of the program,” recalled Vazquez.
Although the program was designed for students to expand their horizons and grow as individuals, mentors quickly realized that they were learning and growing as well. “It isn’t only what you’re providing as a mentor, because throughout this experience you’re learning too,” recalled Vazquez.
Promise Program 2.0
The Promise Program is just one of the many examples of Green Dot’s unwavering dedication to educating, supporting, and preparing all students for college, leadership, and life. This school year, we have expanded the Promise Program to serve tenth and twelfth graders at Ánimo Pat Brown and Ánimo Leadership Charter High School in hopes of offering additional supports to junior and senior students as they make strides towards college and adulthood.
Nunez and Srikanth selected schools with limited existing mentorship opportunities and where the most good could be done. They worked with school staff to identify students who were excited about the opportunity, and students educators felt would benefit from having a mentor.
“To improve the program, we’ve added academic consultancy and socioemotional trainings for mentors,” said Nunez. “We partnered with the college persistence team to better equip our mentors in providing their mentees with academic and socioemotional support.”
Michael Garman, a Green Dot Grant Writer, never had a formal mentor experience, but as an older brother, he understands the importance of having positive relationships with role models. When he heard about the opportunity, Garman applied to become a mentor for the 2017-2018 school year. “I love the work I do at Green Dot, and saw this as a great opportunity to connect more with the students and the schools that I write about every day,” said Garman. “More importantly, it seemed like a great way to help make an impact--however small--in a student's life.”
“I love the work I do at Green Dot, and saw this as a great opportunity to connect more with the students and the schools that I write about every day.” -- Michael Garman, Green Dot Grant Writer
Nunez is excited about the growth of the program and can’t wait to see the existing relationships flourish. “I’m looking forward to watching how our mentors and mentees going into year two will continue to build on the bond they have forged over the past year,” said Nunez.
As a returning mentor, Hess is excited about the changes to the program and the opportunity to spend more time with her mentee. “I feel like my first year with Laura was a chance for us to break the ice and get to know each other as individuals,” recalled Hess. “I’m coming back to ensure that she is on the path to meeting and exceeding the goals she set for herself.”