Mentor Program To Encourage Tulsa Students In Their Strengths

Thursday, February 13th 2014, 6:35 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Tulsa Public Schools is trying out a new idea in accountability for the students.

They're bringing in outsiders, volunteers, to go over grades and progress reports.

It's being done at Clinton Middle and Webster High, but the people behind it believe it will work and ought to be considered for every school.

Tracy Dennis is an eighth-grader at Clinton who has dreams of going to college.

But first he's got to get through junior high.

He's talking over his grades with a volunteer who happens to be a former teacher at Clinton.

"I know math isn't hard for you," volunteer mentor Ahou Vizir said to Dennis. "I know you're good at math. That's the thing that's getting to me."

Every student at Clinton waits their turn, then goes in to meet with someone to go over their grades and issues. It specifically will be someone who is not their parent or teacher.

The students get some one-on-one time to talk about their challenges and successes.

The mentor volunteers give them encouragement and advice to turn things around.

"It's a very practical approach: What are you doing well? Where are you struggling? Where are the areas where you need to improve?" Stephani Brown of Johns Hopkins said.

The idea came out of research at Johns Hopkins; but it's new to Tulsa Public Schools.

At Clinton and Webster, they do this three times a year and believe it's helping children to improve.

"But it's a really nice way for them to remember that everyone wants you to succeed and get to college if that's the goal for you, and it's a good way to feel like they have a community backing them and wanting them to do well," Viziri said.

Each session is only about 10 minutes and students leave with a list of goals that goes home with them, and to their teacher so everyone knows what's expected and what's possible.

"It's the same premise as parent teacher conferences, it just puts the student at the forefront," Brown said.