The Frisco ISD Mentorship Program provides academic and emotional support

Frisco ISD Achieve mentors meet with their mentees at least once a week. (Courtesy of Frisco ISD)

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, staff saw the need for a formal, district-wide mentoring program, said Randall Ford, student mentoring coordinator for Frisco ISD. In response, the district launched FISD Achieve Mentoring, or FAM, in the fall semester of 2021.

Prior to the program, there were several campuses that had individuals or organizations volunteering to mentor students. Part of the purpose of creating FAM was to make sure each mentor had the same training and guidelines to follow, Ford said.

The program is in the early stages of recruiting volunteers to match with students of all ages. As of mid-December, there were about 35 mentors, most of them volunteers before FAM, Ford said.

He added that his goal is to have mentors in each school.

“We are looking for people who are just willing to give of their heart and time and to embark on a journey of at least a year,” said Ford.

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After applicants pass a background check, they attend a 40-minute Ford-led training. The session covers topics such as dos and don’ts and how to report emergencies. Ford is also running a business that demonstrates the importance of attention to detail. He pairs mentors together and has them observe their partners for about 15 seconds. Then they sit back to back and each person changes something in their appearance, such as taking off a watch or undoing a shoe. Then the pair face each other again and try to identify what has changed.

“The main thing is to share with them how important it is to be present during this short 30-minute period and to be aware and to recognize the things that they can see,” said Ford. “If you want to build trust and relationship, then you recognize these things.”

Mentors have a minimum time commitment of one 30 minute session with their mentee each week. Some mentors meet more frequently and some volunteers have two mentees.

During the application process, volunteers have the option of selecting the area in which they wish to focus: academic or whole child. College mentors provide academic and / or career advice. Whole Child Mentors provide social and emotional support in addition to academic support.

“Sometimes whenever people think of mentoring, if it’s not academic, they automatically think a student has a problem and needs to fill the role of a counselor or social worker,” Ford said. “We want to make sure we encourage them, it’s not their role to mentor. Anyone can be a mentor. … We just encourage them to be genuine.

Ford added that the district is accepting mentors from outside of Frisco. Anyone who works in or near the community is welcome to apply.

Richardson resident Wendy Scott had her first session with a ninth grade student at Emerson High School in early December. She said the meeting went well and laid the groundwork for future topics to discuss with her mentee.

“I didn’t have this program in high school, and it’s amazing that there is a program like this because sometimes you might want to talk to a third party,” Scott said. “It’s very positive, that’s for sure.

More information, including how to register for upcoming mentoring trainings, is available at www.friscoisd.org/departments/guidance-and-counseling/achieve-mentoring-program.

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