Ridgewood Mentoring Mission

Daily Point of Light # 5411 Feb 10, 2015
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Charles Duncan teaching senior students mentoring
and leadership skills.

For many students, the move from middle school to high school can be a daunting transition. Because of high school’s independent learning environment, many incoming freshman struggle academically and socially. Even the highest achieving students can struggle with the raised expectations. Ridgewood High School, of Norridge Illinois, has been working since 1999 to help ease this transition with the Ridgewood Mentoring Mission.

Carol Valentino-Barry of Ridgewood Mentoring Mission explains, “It’s part of our school’s mission statement that students set and accomplish goals.” For some students, their goals may not be achieved because they fall behind or get lost in the fast paced environment of a new high school.

Many students find it hard to make the most of the opportunities presented to them in high school. By setting goals and having a mentor to help reach them, students are more likely to become engaged and successful young adults. Mentoring Mission reinforces student success by applying executive functioning skills in monthly mentoring meetings. Meetings include volunteer business partner mentors, freshmen and upperclassman assistant mentors and focus on developing skills such as prioritizing, goal setting and decision-making.

Charles Duncan, Vice President of United Airlines in Chicago, teaches the leadership and mentoring course portion of the mentoring program. Mr. Duncan teaches the senior students with Harvard Business School Case Studies. Using the Socratic Method, students analyze and debate cases, sharpening their decision-making skills. Student leaders are offered seasonal employment at United as well as internship opportunities under the tutelage of the Mr. Duncan.

The mentors and freshman students also engage in community service activities, making 1,000 sack suppers each year and delivering them to the underprivileged men and women in Chicago. Students also make breakfast for a women’s shelter and make greeting cards for senior citizens that are homebound.

Laura McGready, a volunteer mentor for more than six years, explains some of the struggles mentors face, “Not every student we mentor is open to being mentored. But students do get something out of it. As a mentor, you don’t see the results right then and there of what you are doing. But the end reward is great.”

The Mentoring Mission establishes a tiered-network for increased support and achievement using the unique architecture of engaged community volunteers and stakeholders. Key constituents including school board members, community/ business leaders, Mayors, the Chief of Staff for the Secretary of State of IL, Police Chiefs, parents and alumni have acted as mentors to 9th graders. Together, these mentoring teams share their life experiences and tools for success.

Fotini Anastopoulos, a current junior at Ridgewood, shares her favorite part of mentoring saying, “The part that I love the most is that I get to work with students that I normally wouldn’t interact with if I wasn’t part of this program. I can help them with problems that I might be experienced with.”

Dylan Tabang, a senior, says, “I like being able to work with the community leaders. We share different philosophies and life experiences. Their advice and perspective are priceless.” Mentors and freshmen alike gain invaluable experiences through the Mentoring Mission.

Over 3,000 freshmen have been mentored by more than 300 volunteers and 600 upperclassmen since the program began over a decade ago. The Ridgewood Mentoring Mission’s network of volunteers and participants allows everyone to benefit from varying levels of mentorship. Freshmen are supported, and upperclassmen (as well as adult mentors) get to hear and repeat the lessons over the course of their years volunteering in the program. Repetition and teaching others makes the skills more “sticky.” Repeating the dialogues and behaviors of success skills reinforces good habits for everyone in the program. For more information, visit http://rhsmentoring.blogspot.com/

The Ridgewood Mentoring Mission is helping students reach their full potential and become active members of their community. If you know an organization like Ridgewood Mentoring Mission, nominate them today for the Daily Point of Light Award at http://www.pointsoflight.org/programs/recognition/dpol/nomination