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Community Harvest Charter School: One-On-One Adult Mentoring Programs « Center on Educational Governance (CEG)

Community Harvest Charter School: One-On-One Adult Mentoring Programs

Community Harvest Charter School:
One-on-One Adulty Mentioring Programs

Community Harvest Charter School

Los Angeles, California
Founded 2002
Start-up
320 students
Grades 6-12
Site-based
50% African-American, 45% Hispanic, <1% Filipino, <1% Native American:, <1% White, 4% Others
12% English language learners
4% special needs
88% receive subsidized meals
Teachers not part of collective bargaining unit

http://www.communityharvest.us

Source: Center on Educational Governance, 2008.

Classroom environments at Community Harvest Charter School range from the traditional setup of students’ and
teacher’s desks to a room layered with rugs on which students could remove
their shoes, sit and lean against
backrests while learning math. CHCS’s students have needs as varied as the classroom setups: Developing character is the school’s goal.

The “Planting Dreams” mentoring program provides selected students with the additional attention they need to achieve academic and social success.

Located in South Los Angeles, CHCS is associated with the Community Harvest Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works towards educational equity in underserved communities nationwide. CHCS’s student body totals 320 students in grades 6 to 12 and is 99 percent “of color” from various ethnic groups, reflecting the surrounding neighborhood.

Implementation

The mentoring relationships became a formal part of the school’s program in 2004 when the staff applied for and received a three-year federal grant through the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools (OSDFS) Mentoring Programs.

CHCS’s Planting Dreams program uses an innovative “multiple mentoring” structure for each child. The components include cross-age and peer mentoring;

Tutoring during an after-school study hall held weekdays from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.;

Group discussion sessions, where a system of discussion techniques called Connections is used to help students examine the ideas and beliefs behind detrimental behaviors, in order to change their attitudes and actions;

Group outings, including a camping trip, miniature golf outing, leadership training at Malibu State Creek Park;

And one-on-one adult mentoring, where individual students are matched with volunteer teachers, community members or members of a local church. The goal is to match student problems, such as a predisposition to gang activity, with a mentor’s strengths.

Among other activities, each mentee spends a day each year shadowing his or her mentor at work. Mentors often attend their mentees’ performances or athletic events, to cheer for the student when parents are not around.

Requirements

The mentoring program budget had the following two elements: the grant funding for the program’s startup and ongoing resources for continuing the program after the grant period expired. 

Over three years, the OSDFS mentoring grant provided CHCS with $161,530. This funded several personnel positions, the Connections training session, external partnerships (such as Unity One) and mentor–mentee outings.

When the grant period ended, school staffers added mentoring program duties to their jobs. One teacher managed the tutoring program after his regular teaching day. The executive director served as the project director and filled the gap when the two full-time mentoring coordinators returned to the classroom.

Other costs and responsibilities, including the vital training in the Connections program, shifted to the Community Harvest Foundation. Several CHCS staff members also became Connections trainers, qualifying them to train new mentors.
The retreat and field trip budget was hit hard once the grant ended; mentors found themselves paying for many activities they wanted to do that had previously been funded.

Although funding was a problem, the mentoring program did not require special facilities; the school building sufficed.

Volunteer mentors comprise the bulk of the personnel required: first limited to school staff and church members, then expanded to community members such as local businessmen and women, the Unity One group, a local baseball coach who later became a program coordinator.

Lessons Learned

The CHCS mentoring program was designed for 100 seventh and eighth graders, whose progress would be monitored over three years. During this period, students from other grade levels requested mentors and joined the program; other students dropped out.

Students were intended to volunteer for the program, but some refused to buy into the concept of an outside authority figure. For those students, enrollment in the charter school became dependent on attending the mentoring programs; the new requirement motivated parents’ and students’ involvement.

Maintaining a pool of committed and successful mentors – with whom inner-city students would identify — was a challenge. Some church-based mentors were a bad fit. More in-touch mentors were recruited from such anti-gang organizations as Unity One, Amigos Unidos and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Because of the range of needs and interests shared by mentors and mentees, an initial discussion and evaluation system morphed into a more flexible structure. Adding social issues and fun activities to the academic agenda proved necessary and successful.

Conclusion

Since 2004, the school’s Academic Performance Index grew over 100 points, from 556 in 2004 to 700 in 2006. CHCS didn’t meet Adequate Yearly Progress targets in 2005, but did so in both 2006 and 2007

Through the mentoring program, parents increased their communication with the school a nd added a source of parenting advice. Mentors gained personal satisfaction and growth; some maintained contact when their mentees enrolled in college.

Benefits for students included academic improvement and a greater likelihood of enrolling in college, but also vital life skills. According to a mentor, “These are usually angry young men who learned how to say, ‘Well you know what, I’m hurt right now,’ instead of getting mad [and starting a fight].”

Address

Center on Educational Governance
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California
3470 Trousdale Parkway
Waite Phillips Hall, Room 901
Los Angeles, CA 90089-4039

Phone: (213) 740-0697
Fax: (213) 740-4184
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