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John McMillin: Volunteer to be a mentor with tnAchieves

jfelkins • Oct 31, 2015 at 7:00 PM

Could it be that you’re looking for a way to volunteer? 

You might consider a role as a student mentor. You can do this through tnAchieves and still not have to commit tons of free time to making a real difference.

I recently sat down with tnAchieves college completion coordinator Emily Conley about the ongoing program. In brief, tnAchieves is a partner organization to Tennessee Promise and guides students from all over the state through the transition from high school to college. 

“We designed the mentoring program so even the busiest executive, parent, or young professional can make a meaningful impact,” Conley said.

With a mentor, tnAchieves’ data shows a proven increase in the success rate of propelling a student who is considering a post-secondary experience. The University of Tennessee’s Center for Business and Economic Research found that students participating with tnAchieves are more than 20 percent more likely to enter college.

So what will you do as a tnAchieves mentor? First, you’ll need to complete an application then you can choose a preferred high school. Next, you’ll complete a one-hour training session and attend two one-hour meetings with your students you will be mentoring. Finally, it’s a simple matter of communicating with students every two weeks by email, phone or text as they go from high school to college.

In all, you’ll invest about 10-15 hours annually, but you’ll be helping 5-10 high school seniors. It is a fact that tnAchieves’ mentors say they spend less than one hour per month serving as a resource helping students. This isn’t a huge time commitment, but it’s significant, as our mentors help our students reach their full potential. If you don’t have experience working in education, the staff at tnAchieves will train you to work with students.

To become a tnAchieves mentor, you must be 21 years or older and apply online by Nov. 20. You will be subject to a background check and there are three mandatory meetings: You’ll need to complete the mentor training by Feb. 15; attend the high school team meeting in March or April; and you’ll need to attend the college team meeting in September 2016. 

Being an affective mentor is simple. You will make initial contact with your students before the high school team meeting, as well as reaching out to their parents or guardians, if possible. 

“Our mentors are the backbone of our program. More students in Tennessee are going to college because a mentor took an hour each month to remind them of deadlines and offer them support and encouragement,” Conley said. 

A mentor will remind students of all meetings and deadlines and attend high school and college team meetings along with encouraging students to reach their potential. You will help eliminate barriers to post-secondary access and success. Finally, you’ll help students with their required community service and, through sharing personal experiences, lessen post-secondary intimidation.

Hopefully a few of you will want to change lives and transform communities. For more information, visit tnachieves.org/mentor-application.

John McMillin is president of United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland. Email him at [email protected].

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