January is #NationalMentoringMonth, and to celebrate we’re sharing the stories of local mentors who are helping to guide the next generation. In this guest blog, Herb Harpster – a #True2U mentor working with Cleveland Metropolitan School District students – shares his experience:
The True2U Program
Four years ago, in the fall of 2015, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) launched the True2U program for eighth grade scholars. The program objective is to expose these scholars to the many career opportunities that exist. The high schools in the CMSD have specialty curriculum for potential career paths and the scholars must choose the high school that is best for them. The True2U program was designed to have caring adults (mentors) from all walks of life to meet with the scholars for a half day each month for seven months to help them realize their personal strengths, their personality types, their learning styles, their personal values, career choices that are available, and the type of character expected for those careers. Having a better understanding of their personal character and the career opportunities allows the scholars to be more informed for choosing a high school that is best for them.
When this program was launched in 2015, CMSD was looking for caring adults to be mentors for the program. I learned about it through my employer and thought I would give it a try. I always thought about teaching after retirement and this seemed to be a natural alternative.
The Mentor Experience
The CMSD True2U team worked very hard the first year to develop the curriculum guide. The team has been very responsive to feedback and have made improvements each year since. Each session has one or two activities (i.e. the human knot) that requires engagement between the scholars and the mentors. The activities help to build our relationships with the scholars as well as the relationships between the scholars. There are also always a couple of key personal development and key career topics that we cover.
As mentors we share our life experiences with the scholars and strive to show them that it was a process for us to get from grade school to our current career positions and sometimes changes occurred along the way. We try hard to have the scholars share some of their stories and, over time, they become more open.
The key element is to help the scholar to have a positive self-esteem. Each scholar has a strength and we need to help them recognize that strength. We then need to help them learn that they can grow from that strength and become successful. I like to play the Katy Perry song “Firework” at our sessions because it addresses the positive self-esteem issue, particularly in the following lines:
“Do you know that there’s still a chance for you, (a positive self-esteem)
‘Cause there’s a spark in you (your strength)
You just gotta ignite the light (grow from your strength)
And let it shine” (become successful)
Every scholar has potential and I believe that the True2U program is a positive step in the educational process that helps the scholar realize his or her potential. I am proud to be able to contribute to the success of the True2U program as a mentor.