Mobile Mentoring

Mentoring kids is all about developing personal relationships. But in this hi-tech age, some Lee High School students are establishing mentoring relationships through e-mail. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports the goal is to keep kids in school.

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Young people today are quick adaptors of technology. Meeting and getting to know some one through e-mail comes naturally to students such as Maria Ramirez. Corresponding through e-mail helps break the ice for the first in-person visit.

"You meet them with such comfort that you already know them that much, that you don't feel nervous or scared and that you have the confidence to tell them anything. And that they have the confidence to trust in you."

A couple dozen Lee High School students were given PDA's several weeks ago as they way to communicate with new mentors in their lives. They could ask questions about school or life in general. Judy Wallace signed up to be a mentor.

"I think it's a whole new world, a lot of new technology that of course we didn't grow up with, but I think it's a great way to keep the kids communicating and in touch. It comes so easy for them why not give it a try."

The new mentor relationships took off. Ralph Eads chairs Expectation Graduation and came up with the idea of connecting mentors and students through technology.

"In the three weeks we've been up and running we've had 27,000 email messages sent and received by kids so clearly there's a lot of usage. One of the most important things is that the mentors are generating about six out-bound e-mails a day."

Eads says the personal e-mail devices help an age-old problem with mentoring ... having time to spend with students without taking away from work or family life. All of the students at Lee High School have advocates that work with them to select courses and talk about career goals. But Principal Steven Amstutz says students need multiple people to rely on throughout school.

"Any time we're planning our futures and making progress toward that future, it's not a one time conversation. Dreams change and goals change. It's not always smooth progress... so we need to keep revisiting where students are in their progress, help them take those next important steps, so ultimately they reach that goal of graduation from high school and entry and ultimately graduation from a four year college or university."

The goal of the program is to keep students in school and to challenge them to take tougher courses. Unlike the school advocates, the mentors will be in touch with students throughout the summer, helping to make sure they are back in school in the Fall. The pilot program is beginning with a couple dozen students at Lee High School. The goal is to expand the program to 25 schools at a cost of $200 a year per child. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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