Stanislaus CA School Mentorship Program Needs Volunteers

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Mentor Jaime Flores poses with his mentee, Adriana, a student at Orville Wright Elementary School.

Sierra Vista Child and Family Services

A Stanislaus County mental health agency is looking for community members to mentor elementary and middle school students in Modesto as children show a “strong need” for support.

Sierra Vista Child & Family Services manages the program in partnership with schools in the city of Modesto. It dates from 2015.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said coordinator Anne Aleson, there is a deficit of mentors just as more students – as young as kindergarten children – could benefit from individual attention.

“The youth in our community need it more than ever,” said Aleson, Mentorship and Community Support Coordinator for Sierra Vista.

School staff at several schools in Modesto refer children to the program, called the Regional Mentoring Alliance. Adult volunteers are trained and matched with students with similar interests and backgrounds, Aleson said.

They meet with students for one hour a week throughout the school year. Students are removed from the classroom to meet with their mentor during the school day, which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Aleson said. Volunteers can choose to participate virtually or in person.

Aleson hopes to bring together at least 100 volunteers, up from around 40 now. A number of students want to be referred to the program, she said, but they won’t be added to a waiting list until other mentors are available.

Wilson Elementary School principal Danyelle Gonzalez said supervised students display higher attendance, better academic performance and less problematic behavior.

Gonzalez said she is monitoring trends in disciplinary data to determine which students could benefit the most from mentorship, in addition to those referred by family or teachers.

She said some students “were looking forward to being matched with a mentor” after leaving their previous matches during the pandemic.

Mentors show students they matter, offering a positive reason to come to school, Gonzalez said. “For some kids, it’s the best part of their school experience,” she said.

Pairs can play games, solve puzzles, or answer icebreaker questions. Mentors often offer to help students with homework, but children generally prefer activities that make people laugh, as part of an intentional effort to meet students’ social and emotional needs, which in turn stimulates academic improvement.

Jaime Flores has been mentoring Adriana, a student at Orville Wright Elementary School, since 2018. As the couple bonded around the arts and crafts, the relationship “turned into something that looked like a friendship, ”Flores said.

“We could have fun, but she also knew she could trust me and talk to me about things,” she said.

Maria Salie is the mentor of Evelyn, a second grader at Wilson Elementary School.

For about three years, Salie said, she watched Evelyn go from shy to confident. She opens up to her friends and takes responsibility as a leader. The relationship touched them the two.

“It’s not just me trying to encourage, inspire, motivate and uplift, but in turn, she does it for me,” said Salie.

Those interested in volunteering as a mentor or donating to the program can visit www.sierravistacares.org/regional-mentoring-alliance or contact Anne Aleson at [email protected]

Emily Isaacman is the educational reporter for The Bee’s community-funded Economic Mobility Lab, which includes a team of journalists covering equity, economic development and education. Support for the lab comes from Stanislaus State University, E. & J. Gallo Winery, Porges Family Foundation, the James B. McClatchy Foundation and over 250 community members.

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Emily Isaacman covers education for the Modesto Bee Economic Mobility Lab. She is originally from San Diego and graduated from Indiana University, where she majored in journalism and political science. Emily interned with Chalkbeat Indiana, the Dow Jones News Fund and Reuters.


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