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An annual event to introduce mentors and college-bound students makes the leap to online

Although they couldn't get acquainted in person due to COVID-19, 250 College Now mentor-mentee pairs went to a virtual platform to see each other's faces
Credit: College Now

CLEVELAND — Hundreds of fledgling relationships got their start Wednesday night, when a new class of College Now Greater Cleveland mentors met their freshman students during a virtual kick-off event.

Although the 250 pairs of mentors and mentees couldn’t get acquainted in person this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, College Now did its best to adapt, breaking the duos out into one-on-one chats during the online get-together. It was sponsored by the Nordson Corporation Foundation.

The event was the culmination of efforts underway since January to find mentors for recipients of College Now and Say Yes to Education scholarships. When Cleveland became a Say Yes to Education city in 2019, opening the door to college for hundreds of new scholarship recipients, WKYC Studios launched a collaboration to help College Now recruit volunteers willing to be matched with these college-bound students for four years.

One of the mentors who signed up as a result of WKYC’s “Mentor Monday” campaign with Cleveland Metropolitan School District was Greg Adkins, principal of Hanna Gibbons STEM School in Cleveland.

He got to virtually meet his mentee, Chris, a Cleveland public schools graduate who just moved into freshman housing at Kent State University. The two have e-mailed each other several times since being matched, but Wednesday night was their first opportunity to lay eyes on each other, which they did via the online platform Parcy.

“I reflected back on my college experience and gave him pointers,” Adkins said. 

They talked about the fact that when Chris is in a bind, even if it feels insignificant, he should feel free to call on him. 

“Even if it’s just a text message. That’s what I’m here for."

Chris is a first-generation college student who has received a Say Yes scholarship. The Say Yes program entitles every student in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District who meets residency and enrollment requirements – nearly 2,000 students every year – to a tuition gap-closing scholarship.

They’re very compatible, Adkins said. Both grew up in Cleveland, and they have similar detail-oriented personalities. 

“College Now does an awesome job at matching students. I’m able to share my experience as a first-generation college student and how I navigated that system.”

And just like his mentor, Chris is interested in a career in education. 

“I feel his passion for what it is he wants to do. He’s even thinking long-term, what he’ll do after he finishes a four-year program. I can see his dedication to coming out on top."

College Now had hoped to sign up 1,000 mentors to be matched with 2020 graduates, and it met its goal thanks to volunteers like Adkins.

Last night’s kick-off began with the one-on-one breakout sessions for mentors and mentees, then  all participants came together for a virtual program with pre-recorded remarks from speakers from College Now Greater Cleveland and the Nordson Corporation Foundation, as well as a mentor/student pair.