How We Built an Advocacy Coalition and Campaign to Expand Mentoring for Students

Chelsea Aquino, Manager of Government Relations and Public Policy, Mass Mentoring Partnership
August 21st, 2018
Posted In: Advocacy, Campaigns

Tags: ,

At Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP), we believe that every young person in Massachusetts has the right to access mentors and adult role models to help them reach their full potential. One foundational goal of MMP’s advocacy is to embed mentoring in systems and institutions as a means of prevention and support to young people as they navigate through challenges wherever they face them. We achieve this by lobbying for state and local funding for mentoring, and we mobilize a network of individuals, youth-serving organizations, and government officials to fulfil these goals.

 

Dropout Prevention Advocacy Efforts

One of MMP’s main policy priorities is to embed relationships in schools with high levels of chronic absenteeism and dropout rates. A bill titled An Act Relative to Dropout Prevention and Recovery in the Massachusetts House and Senate calls for added supports including graduation coaches in schools. Graduation coaches act as a constant presence that can mentor youth and connect them to resources or social services available in the community.

In 2016, MMP hired a rising senior in the Boston Public Schools to work in our office for the summer through the Bank of America Student Leader Program. She was tasked with peer-to-peer data collection, called the Youth Voice Project, administering over 200 surveys and conducting focus groups in communities. The results from the surveys helped shape recommendations to the bill shifting the role of the grad coach from solely academic to focusing on being a wraparound support for the young person.

MMP also recently supported Boston Public Schools with the Success Mentors pilot program. This initiative connects students with school-based mentors as a strategy to combat chronic absenteeism. The pilots provide opportunities to collect data and are evidence-based supports, with training requirements identical to those in An Act Relative to Dropout Prevention and Recovery. We hope to be able to point to these successful pilot programs as a way to move the bill through the next legislative session.

From Learnings to Practice and Partnership

Leaning on the expertise of young people, we drafted recommendations to embed social-emotional supports in schools, including training requirements in cultural responsiveness, trauma-informed practice, and building healthy youth-adult relationships in the text of the bill. We also created public awareness campaigns and grassroots organizing to advocate locally and statewide on the issue.

Mentoring programs, youth-serving organizations, educators, and legislators have been receptive to embedding these relationships in schools. We found commonality in our efforts to prepare young people for the future—a shared vision, which led us to one of our strongest advocacy partners, the Boston Private Industry Council. Together, we have attended key meetings with legislators, collected data on dropout rates and re-engagement, and have a strong working relationship with Boston Public Schools.

 

The Future

Since we launched the Youth Voice Project, the powerful stories shared by young people have been critical to informing our work. This project led to adaptation in the trainings we offer, shaped conversations with stakeholders, and called out the gaps in the existing legislation. Our goal for 2018 and beyond is to continue to embed youth voice and youth advocacy into our public awareness efforts and our lobbying for An Act Relative to Dropout Prevention and Recovery, leaning on the support of our partners who understand the importance of helping young people reach their full potential.

 

Get Involved!

To learn more and join our efforts to support young people in school, visit MMP’s Advocacy Page or sign up for our Voter Voice campaign (if you’re a Massachusetts resident) to connect with your legislators about this important issue!

 

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