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Local after-school program helping to close ‘mentoring gap’

March 26th, 2010 · No Comments · Education

Grade-school and college students alike say they benefit from the after-school mentoring program.

Grade-school and college students alike say they benefit from the after-school mentoring program.

Long Beach BLAST (Better Learning After School Today) recently released the evaluation results of its mentoring program for 2008-2009, which indicated that it has been effective in addressing academic and other problems of at-risk youth. According to the results, the youth BLAST serves improve significantly in academic performance, behavior and interpersonal relationships. More than 70 percent of their teachers reported that the BLAST students improved in areas such as finishing homework, attending class regularly, communication with teachers and others, respecting others and self-esteem.
BLAST recruits, trains, places and supports college students as tutors and mentors in after-school programs throughout the Long Beach Unified School District, especially in downtown and west Long Beach. Those well-trained volunteers work with at-risk youth who are from the city’s most troubled urban areas. They assist these students with homework and encourage them to set short- and long-term goals. The college students, being only a few years older, can gain the trust of the children while acting as positive role models.
During the study, students said that their mentors helped them do better in school, talked to them about the possibility of going to college, listened to them, gave them good advice and made them feel special. Over 86 percent said they could trust their mentor with secrets. These relationships are very important to children who may not have reliable, supportive adults in their lives, and the college volunteers give them valuable emotional support. They also act as role models and inspire the children to think about following in their footsteps in going to college and/or considering an appropriate professional career.
The study also showed that the college students, who are all Long Beach area college students, also benefitted. Aside from receiving service learning credit in their classes, the mentors reported positive feelings about interacting with the children and knowing they were helping.
According to Mentoring.org and the Governor’s Mentoring Partnership, children and youth who are mentored are less likely to be involved with gangs, violence, teen pregnancy, and alcohol and drug use. They do better academically, have better attitudes toward school, better attendance and a better chance of going on to higher education.
Mentoring.org estimates that there is a “mentoring gap” of over 14 million school children in the U.S. who could benefit from being mentored, but who do not currently have access to a mentor. At the same time, there are many caring young adults willing and able to give their time and energy to helping children. Long Beach BLAST acts as a facilitator to bring these groups together. In its tenth year of operation, to date, it has assisted 5,710 children through the provision of 4,268 mentors. BLAST offers training and placement to local college students in February and September of each year. To find out how to volunteer for the program, visit lbblast.org or call (562) 437-7766.

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