Mentoring Focuses on Building Relationships in Addition to Grades

BY Kelly Chen  January 31, 2012 at 11:30 AM EST


In Washington, D.C., youth-mentoring organizations convened in the second annual National Mentoring Summit to share best practices on how mentoring a young person can create life-changing results.

The goal of many mentoring organizations is to positively influence “alterable” risk factors such as teen pregnancy, poor school performance and lack of self-esteem that contribute to students dropping out of high school.

American Graduate sat down with a mentor and mentee from College Bound — a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization that helps prepare students for college — to talk about how their relationship has grown over the years.

Joytrease George and Tianie Hazel’s relationship did not begin with big smiles and jokes. Hazel reluctantly joined College Bound at the urging of her mother.

“My whole thing about College Bound was ‘No, I don’t want to go, I don’t like it,’” Hazel said. “I just made up stuff to say I didn’t want to go.”

College Bound, which requires mentors and mentees to meet two hours a week outside of regularly scheduled sessions, focuses on relationship-building and personal growth, as well as getting students into college.

Behind Hazel’s lack of interest, George said she eventually learned, was a tough attitude that masked a difficult school and home life. At school, Hazel was getting picked on for a physical disability in her hand. At home, she had unexpectedly lost her father.

“You could sense there was some type of anger going on. There was some type of tension,” George said. She recalled the day she confronted Hazel about her poor attitude.

“I had to sit her down and just be like, ‘I’m not sure what’s going on, maybe you’re not ready to tell me or anything, but this has to change,’” George said. “Something has to give, you just have to let go of the attitude. It’s not that serious, but whatever you do need, I’m here to help you.”

During the summer between her junior and senior year, George noticed a full transformation in Hazel.

“She was smiling and laughing more,” George said. “You could tell she was more willing to stand up and speak.”

Do you have someone in your life who has made a difference? Share your story in the below comments section.

American Graduate is a public media initiative focused on the high school dropout problem.