Students at Yoncalla Elementary Middle School will get a new kind of education in the next school year – mentorship. Two classes from the school are going to be “adopted” by a college access coach from Oregon State University.
The year will begin with these students meeting their adopted college student. Thereafter, every two weeks, this coach will have Skype sessions where he or she will go over topics such as comparing college to elementary school and how to financially plan for college.
This program is a partnership between the OSU Precollege Program, the Oregon State University GEAR UP program and the Oregon and Washington Campus Compact program the College Access Corps,. The College Access Corps is funded by a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service.
The Adopt-A-Classroom/Adopt-A-College Student program was piloted in 2012 and 2013 academic years with Alder Elementary and Hauton B. Lee Middle School. Two OSU college mentors reached 250 students over the course of these years.
Kyle Cole, Precollege Programs Director, said the program did well but is limited by funding.
“The program was very successful but we do not have the funds to scale the program up,” Cole said.
With the introduction of the College Access Corps, the Adopt-A-Classroom program can expand its reach. The College Access Corps provides a full-time AmeriCorps member to coordinate and train 11 college students to be college access coaches.
Each of these 11 coaches will adopt two classrooms and will engage and mentor at least 50 students. This will allow the Precollege program expand its reach to Ford Family Foundation GEAR UP schools, according to Cole.
“The CAC Coordinator will enable us to increase the capacity of the program and offer it to the Ford Family Foundation GEAR UP Schools,” Cole said. “The partnership will allow us to connect at least 550 new GEAR UP students with a college student mentor.”
This is good news for Yoncalla Elementary Middle School, a K-8th grade school with 209 students. It is a small school serving a small town of about 1000 people. 87 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch according to the Oregon Department of Education income eligibility guidelines.
Yoncalla Elementary Middle School will join ten other schools such as Joseph Lane Middle School in Roseburg, North Douglas Elementary Middle School in Drain, and the Reedsport Community Charter School. All Ford Foundation GEAR UP schools chosen as host sites have at least a 50 percent or higher student population eligible for free or reduced priced lunch.
At the end of the school year, the students meet with their coach a second time at Oregon State, according to Cole.
“Many of the GEAR UP students will visit OSU through our Campus Field Trip program where they can meet their college student mentors in their natural habitat,” Cole said.
No one knew what to expect the first time the college mentor visited his adopted students. Cole wondered if the students would even recognize him or connect with him. Thankfully, those fears were misplaced.
“They didn't know he was coming for a visit and when they recognized him in the hall, they mobbed him,” Cole said. “He was a rock star to them.”