True2U: A mentor's experience
Supporting Our Students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is more than just helping by supplying them with books, pens and paper. It also means connecting with them on a personal level.
That is where the True2U mentoring program comes in. It’s an innovative mentoring and career awareness program that prepares eighth grade students for the transition from middle school to high school.
“It’s such a positive program,” mentor Felecia Qamar says. Qamar, 29, grew up in Cleveland and attended Cleveland schools until the family moved to Maple Heights. She is a controller for Olympic Steel Inc., headquartered in Bedford Heights.
“I learned about the mentoring program through a friend...and this will be my third year in the program,” Qamar says. She says she is “passionate about giving back,” and encourages others to step up and join the program.
“We need (people) who are committed…people who have experience in the working world…to help the students discover themselves…who they are…what they want to pursue on the next level of education…,” Qamar says.
Mentors meet with 10-12 eighth grade students for 3 hours on one Thursday a month throughout the school year.
Mentors have mandatory training sessions in September, November, and February for 2017-2018 but there are also other training sessions throughout the year as well.
Students take online assessments throughout the year that help them uncover their unique strengths, learning styles and career personalities. Mentors then work with students to help them use that knowledge to set goals, explore career interests, and plan for a smooth transition to high school.
Mentors are placed in teams of 2 or 3.
Students record what they've learned about themselves through the program in a True2U Tracker, essentially a journal/workbook.
The Tracker also lets them make a plan for programs and people they will connect with at their high school that will be able to support them and engage their interests.
The program started in 2015 with just 22 schools, according to True2U.
Anyone over the age of 18 can be a mentor and Qamar says she just “…brings herself and a positive attitude!”
“The eighth graders are motivated during these (mentoring) sessions,” Qamar says. “They get a chance to step out of the ‘graded classroom work’ and explore themselves.”
Started in 2015, the program has expanded to nearly all 70 CMSD elementary schools. True2U provides snacks for the students during the monthly sessions as well.
In each group, there are students who learn faster than others, Qamar says, and others who need to see what is their own best way to learn.
The Tracker helps students “so they learn about the best way THEY learn,” Qamar says. Some students learn better visually, while others learn better through the written word.
The purpose of the program is to help students realize their full potential and help them choose a particular CMSD high school that will not only meet their needs but meet their expectations of what they want to do as a career.
The sessions help the students reflect on who they are what their strengths are. Each student is required to develop a “success plan” going forward.
The focus is on eighth graders because that is a critical stage in helping the students work hard and continue with their education until they graduate. True2U uses speakers, like author/inspirational speaker Stedman Graham, to motivate students and mentors as well.