Summit Fellows Spotlight: Q&A with Debbie Eller of Communities in Schools of Caldwell County

Debbie Eller, Communities in Schools of Caldwell County
July 18th, 2017
Posted In: Corporate Engagement, National Mentoring Summit

With the generous support of AT&T, State Street Corporation, and an anonymous donor, MENTOR launched the 2017 Summit Fellowship Program to provide a select number of scholarships to dedicated leaders from mentoring programs operating with a budget of $150,000 or less. In the Summit Fellows Spotlight series, the 2017 Fellows reflect on their experiences at the Summit and the lessons they’ve brought back to their local communities and programs. 

Debbie Eller, Communities in Schools of Caldwell County

Q: What is your program’s mission?

A: The vision of Communities In Schools of Caldwell County is for every child in Caldwell County Schools to graduate, be globally competitive, and prepared for life in the 21st Century.

Q: What did you hope to get out of your Summit experience?

A: It was important for me to attend the National Mentoring Summit to learn new best practices on recruiting mentors from all genders, cultures, and ages. By attending the Summit, I was able to network with people who had experienced many of the same issues I was experiencing. Caldwell County saw recession slowly affect all walks of life and all businesses. Unemployment rates hit 17% at one point. Not only did we lose jobs, but we lost volunteers and community confidence.

Q: What was your favorite part of the Summit?

A: My favorite part of the Summit was the workshops. Every single one I attended gave me a new perspective on issues that I was working to address. You might say I had “aha moments” – there were several times I realized I had never looked at a problem or solution in a unique way, or wondered “why didn’t I think of that?”

Q: What learnings from the Summit have you brought back to your organization?

A: We used the new learnings and tools from the Summit to apply for a small grant to expand and develop new mentor training — which CIS of Caldwell received! This grant will allow us to use more up to date materials and develop training videos.

Q: Why do you feel it is important to support and provide mentoring practitioners with professional development and peer networking opportunities?

The Summit allowed some of the top experts in the country to share the new look of mentoring. Professional development and peer networking opportunities add stability to both professionals and their organizations. Everyone in life needs a professional mentor to guide and direct them, many of which can be found at the Summit. Mentors bring experience to the table, offer fresh new life to the program and bring a wisdom that can’t be learned in a book.

Q: Can you share a story from the Summit with us?

A: During the Philanthropic Partnerships Track Fireside Chat at the National Mentoring Summit, which Fellows had the exclusive opportunity to attend, I learned the value of having a direct conversation with corporate sponsors and philanthropists. Funding has always been an issue in the small county where I work. Large funders are looking for larger impact or national organizations with state and national offices.  Many an RFP will not accept applications from affiliates of a state or national program. I spoke with a couple of the philanthropists after the Fireside Chat and they told me to write or call the foundation and explain how state and national grants often times do not funnel down to smaller affiliates. They told me to ask them how my organization can access funding through their foundation because we have a great need and serve a large number of students who fit the criteria of the grant funding. Basically, plead your case, show the need and share the data to back it up. This was an “aha moment!”

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To learn more about the Summit Fellows program, click here.
If you are interested in sponsoring the 2018 Fellows Program, contact Julie Babyatzky.

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