UT Dallas Students Work With At-Risk High-Schoolers
The School of Economics, Political and Policy Sciences Won a $67,000 Grant to Run the Mentoring Program
Nov. 17, 2011
UT Dallas student Deborah Hernandez quit high school and worked minimum wage jobs before she realized pursuing an education was the key to her success.
Now a junior majoring in public affairs, she wants to mentor teens at risk of dropping out of high school. She hopes imparting her life experiences will help them realize they can pursue their educational goals despite life’s obstacles.
“Regardless of circumstances, they can accomplish whatever it is they set,” Hernandez said. “I was told when I quit school that I would not make it. And here I am.”
Dr. Sarah Maxwell
Dr. Nadine Connell
Hernandez is among 18 UT Dallas students who are mentoring 58 sophomores from Williams High School in Plano as part of a program led by the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences (EPPS). The Home Builders Institute (HBI) in Washington D.C. awarded EPPS a $67,000 grant to run the mentoring program, which is called HBI Construction - Coaching Opportunities to Reach Employment (C-CORE).
Nationally, the program aims to match 5,000 youths with more than 1,600 industry mentors, from home builders associations, business organizations and local communities. UT Dallas is the only university of the more than 30 participating sites across the country.
EPPS was awarded the grant based on its reputation and experience, said Dr. Sarah Maxwell, an assistant dean for undergraduate education and program co-organizer. She said the Home Builders Institute appreciated that the UT Dallas program uses a mentoring model that focuses on building skills and knowledge, which research suggests is successful.
“A lot of the goals of this mentoring program are to promote post-secondary education, graduating from high school and career exploration,” said Dr. Nadine Connell, an assistant professor of criminology and the program co-organizer. “Having a university involved really opens students’ minds, especially the students that we’re working with who are not coming from traditionally college-educated families, so they haven’t had a lot of the cultural experiences of college or university life.”
HBI C-CORE targets teens ages 16 to 18 to help reduce high-risk behaviors such as dropping out of high school, truancy, teen pregnancy and drug, alcohol and tobacco use. The program also aims to improve job placement and retention in careers affiliated with the home building industry. UT Dallas is engaging in a slightly different mentoring model, incorporating academic success and college readiness as its main goals.
The college students and their mentees will meet at Williams High School and the UT Dallas campus twice a month. The mentors will cover topics such as career exploration, resume building and writing, and presentation skills using mock interviews. They will also talk about business etiquette and college life.
The mentees are enrolled in AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a nationally recognized high school program that identifies and supports students in the academic middle who have the desire to go to college and the willingness to work hard.
Mentee Emily Foote said having a mentor and taking the AVID class will help prepare her for what lies ahead in college, where she wants to study criminology.
“I’ve seen all the shows on criminal justice,” she said. “And being a lawyer, I think would be neat. “
The college students recently met their mentees for the first time during a team-building event held in the Founder’s Atrium at UT Dallas.
“We want the UT Dallas students to be excited about the opportunity to be a part of this program because we think they’re going to benefit tremendously,” Connell said. “Not only are they going to get the opportunity to be expert college students, we feel this will give them a real chance to gain some self-efficacy themselves and a sense of pride about what they’ve accomplished.”
UT Dallas students are sought to serve as mentors on an ongoing basis. Students can also receive an internship credit through the Career Center if they choose to be a mentor and are also interested in learning more about non-profit organizations and community partnerships. For more information about becoming a mentor, e-mail Stephen Clipper, a graduate assistant in the criminology program, at [email protected].