Adopt A Class, a Unique Approach to Group Mentoring
Hi Friends, It’s Melanie Ervin, Director of Communication of Adopt A Class. I am here to share our work and 3 lessons we’ve learned that has sustained our program year over year.
But first, What is Adopt A Class?
Adopt A Class (AAC) is group mentoring program in Greater Cincinnati that connects businesses and civic groups to students in high poverty schools. Serving students Pre-K through 8th grade for more than 15 years, the AAC program positively impacts the students AND businesses involved. Today, Adopt A Class serves over 6000 students with the help of over 2500 mentors, representing 150 organizations.
For the student, this program provides access to a variety of role models, the opportunity to learn life skills and exposure to a diverse set of careers paths – something AAC believes helps young people realize their full potential!
For the business, this program enhances workplace culture by providing an excellent employee engagement opportunity. AAC offers an EASY and FUN way for employees to give back to the community together as a team.
The AAC model is simple and unique. A team of volunteers from the same business agrees to “adopt” a classroom during the school year, where they mentor for an hour once a month. By matching a team with the same classroom teacher every year, the program allows for two things to happen: 1) students are exposed to new careers and mentors from different backgrounds each year and, 2) businesses expand their reach and impact more young people over time.
AAC mentors, called “adopters”, visit their class once a month, take their mentees on an annual field trip, routinely exchange pen pal letters and most importantly, exposes them to a breadth of experiences and a wide variety of careers.
While AAC provides several programming options, many businesses like to add their own spin. For example, US Bank teaches financial literacy. Kroger shows careers in retail. Cintas Corporation talks about the importance of fire safety (see short clip from a recent mentor visit). Just imagine the many experiences, careers and diverse role models a student is exposed to by the time they reach high school!
3 Lessons for Sustaining a Volunteer Base
Volunteers are central to mentoring. They deliver on your program’s mission. Though in this industry, it can be hard to retain volunteers over time. Here are our three lessons for sustaining a volunteer base:
We recognize that mentoring youth can be a frightening task for many. So in our model, we decided to change how we approach mentoring. Instead of having a specific curriculum for each of our mentors to deliver, we have three focus areas for mentoring in our program. We ask our mentors to focus on building life skills, teaching STE(A)M and/or college & career preparedness. This kind of flexibility gives our mentors the opportunity to bring their own expertise and interests into their mentoring. We find our mentors really like that they can be themselves and add their own spin to the lessons they bring into the classroom.
Above all, adopters tell us that the tangible impact they make is most rewarding and the reason why so many of them come back each year.
To learn more about Adopt A Class, check us out at www.aacmentors.org!