A year ago the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership set a goal of recruiting an additional 800 mentors statewide.
To help make that happen, with the efforts of the state congressional delegation, the Partnership won a $400,000 federal grant that was awarded to 16 agencies providing mentoring services.
Last Thursday, at a reception hosted by the Amica Mutual Insurance Co. offices in Lincoln, the Warwick-based partnership presented Champion of Mentoring Awards to each of the state’s congressmen and celebrated the success of the past year. The goal was surpassed, with a total of 938 added, bringing the statewide total to almost 5,500, reported partnership board chairman Robert Weygand.
“This is a great accomplishment,” said Weygand.Collectively, he said, mentors across the state volunteered 185,000 hours that, if you put a dollar value to, amounts to about $4 million contribution.
Most mentors spend an hour a week at a school where the principal, teacher or even the child’s parent has identified an “at risk” student who can use an adult to look up to. The mentor’s role is not to augment teaching but to become a friend who the student can turn to for advice or simply have fun.
As Weygand observed, the program works. Students take a greater interest in school and gain confidence in their abilities. He said of the nearly 5,500 with mentors, 63 percent of the students have improved their grades in at least one core subject; unexcused absences have dropped 57 percent; and disciplinary actions have dropped 67 percent. Ninety-three percent of students with mentors graduated from high school, compared to a state average of 76 percent.
“Jack Reed truly gets it,” partnership CEO Arlene McNulty said in presenting a championship award to the U.S. Senator.
Noting that the agency has its roots in Warwick, Reed focused on the contributions of those who mentor.
“It’s about what you have done to change lives,” he said.
Congressman James Langevin, who also received a championship award, lauded Weygand, his predecessor for the Second Congressional District.
“You’re always involved in the best causes,” he said.Langevin said mentoring young people who don’t have guidance and support is critical and “having someone watching their progress is priceless.”
Awards were also presented to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman David Cicilline. Receiving on their behalf were Rele Abiadi-Ritter and Ernest Carlucci, respectively.
Simon Moore, executive director of College Visions, a recipient of a $12,300 grant made possible through the federal grant, told how the non-profit agency coaches students from low-income families. He read letters from several of the 70 students involved in the program, all of whom were the first in their families to go to college. Of the group, he said 96 percent went on to college, having won collectively $1.2 million in grants and scholarships.
With many mentors in the audience, Jo-Ann Schofield, partnership president and COO said, “It’s about you believing in our kids.”
Bob DiMuccio, Amica chairman, president and CEO, agreed. In welcoming remarks he said, “There is no nobler thing than to help a young person.”