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Mentor Monday succeeds in netting 125 sign-ups for College Now program

More volunteers are still needed, and if you have a college degree, you fit the bill

CLEVELAND — The final tally is in for Mentor Monday: 

In just one day, WKYC's recruiting blitz on March 4 netted 125 new volunteers for College Now of Greater Cleveland's mentoring program.

Throughout the day on Mentor Monday, WKYC's newscasts focused on the urgent need to find mentors for the first class of local students who will receive Say Yes to Education tuition scholarships in the fall.

WKYC anchor Russ Mitchell was one of the chief architects of the mentoring campaign. He worked alongside Cleveland Metropolitan School District and College Now to plan the Mentor Monday project, and even signed up himself to be a mentor.

It was back in January that Say Yes to Education announced that for the next 25 years, students in Cleveland schools will be eligible to receive full tuition scholarships. One hundred colleges are in the program and 12 are here in Ohio. Already, more than 1,000 seniors have applied for the scholarships and many will be first-generation college students and a mentor will help them navigate through their college years.

Interested in mentoring a Say Yes scholarship recipient but you didn't sign up on Mentor Monday? No worries. The deadline to sign up is April 1, so you still have plenty of time. 

Who is eligible to become a College Now mentor? Madeline Rife, director of the mentoring program at College Now, says “As long as you have a college degree, access to the internet, and a desire to give back, you're able to be an effective mentor.”

The process is simple. You can apply on the College Now website at https://www.collegenowgc.org/become-a-mentor/. You will then be onboarded and matched with a student based on interests or major. According to Rife, the process is similar to what is done on a dating website.

“We ask mentors to work with the student for their years in college and really develop their relationship and rapport. But day to day we ask for just two emails per month and three meetings per year as a minimum,” said Rife.

College Now's software program provides those email discussions with topics like “How are you adjusting to dorm life?” or “Have you met one on one with any of your professors yet?” It also hosts the get-togethers for the mentor and student. But don't worry, if the mentor or student can't make an event, Rife says you can always connect via phone, Skype or Facetime.

“We understand busy professionals, busy college students. We definitely want to make sure everyone is comfortable, mentors and students.”

Rife says you also don’t need to worry about not having anything in common with a student. There is usually a lot more there then you would think.

“Many times at the kick-off event, the first event where students and mentors meet, we've heard from both students and mentors that they've shared maybe a hidden talent, a secret passion or something like that. So it’s really a relationship that once you start, you really can't predict where it will go and often it takes people to places they didn't expect,” added Rife.

Another highlight of Mentor Monday was when dozens of Cleveland Metropolitan School District educators arrived at WKYC studios for a special party in their honor.

CEO Eric Gordon had encouraged CMSD's degreed employees to register early as College Now mentors, in order to inspire others to volunteer, and more than 250 educators followed his advice and signed up.

And on Mentor Monday, they received a special thank you. Cleveland schools employees were wined and dined at an event coordinated by WKYC, CMSD, College Now and McDonald Hopkins Law Firm. 

Zoup!, Lago, Cleveland Cakery, Erie Island Coffee and culinary students from CMSD’s Jane Addams Business Career Center provided the food for the event. Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Pope’s provided a signature cocktail, and wine was donated by Lago. Entertainment was provided by the Cleveland School of the Arts string quartet. Thank you gifts were provided by Shawntel Davis of Sweet Treats by Shawntel and WKYC.

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