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Mentors in Real Life: Sam Dowd

Mentoring plays a crucial role in the lives of young people, helping them make decisions and providing connections that lead to future opportunity. January is National Mentoring Month, and The National Mentoring Partnership is highlighting the stories of mentors online using #MentorsIRL. At Austin Partners in Education, we see firsthand every day the positive impact mentors can have in the lives of students. To wrap up the month, we will be featuring just a few of our many wonderful mentors on our blog and social media. We’re grateful to all of our mentors who show up each week throughout the school year! You can share your own mentoring experiences with us using the hashtags #APIEShowsUp, #MentorsIRL, and #MentoringMonth.

Sam Dowd | Q&A

Sam Dowd has mentored with Austin Partners in Education for two years and currently mentors a 16-year-old student.

Q: What made you interested in volunteering as a mentor?

A: I got to know Wendi Gordon [APIE’s Development Director] personally, and after hearing more about her work with APIE I knew I wanted to get involved. My wife and I were both fortunate to grow up in households that value education, and we know those experiences were instrumental in helping shape us as adults. In that spirit, I wanted to have an opportunity to invest in young people and help equip them with resources that they may need to move their education forward.

Q: How has your experience as a mentor been so far? How has it changed over the years?

A: My experience as a mentor has been amazing so far. Initially, my student and I took a little bit of time to get to know each other, but once we built some rapport and established a consistent schedule we were able to enjoy some more experiences together. It helps that he is extremely involved with his school. My wife and I have been able to support him at soccer games and guitar recitals. It’s been a blast getting to support him at his various events!

Q: What do you like about mentoring – what keeps you coming back year after year?

A: Advocating for my student and being a source of encouragement has been fulfilling as I can remember how tough high school was at times. Being able to celebrate his accomplishments and remind him that his hard work has helped create some tremendous opportunities has been impactful as well. I love being able to affirm his intellect and his work ethic, and I can see his confidence grow with every season!

Q: Why have you chosen to work with the same mentee year after year?

A: Because he’s awesome and he hasn’t fired me yet!

Q: Do you have any favorite stories about your mentee that you could share?

A: My wife and I supported my student during one of his guitar recitals when his parents couldn’t make it, and I remember how happy he looked when he saw us after his performance. It was so fun to be able to tell him how well he did and how proud we were of his hard work!

Q: What lasting impact do you hope to have on your mentee?

A: I hope he can appreciate my encouragement as well as feedback during this season of his life. Through all of our interactions I try to simultaneously challenge and validate him in his academic and extracurricular activities. I always try to remind him that this is a challenging and busy season in his life, but he has these responsibilities and expectations because he is so incredibly bright.

Q: Why should someone volunteer as a mentor?

A: Volunteering through APIE is an incredible gift. I cannot think of another organization that works so tirelessly to support the students of AISD. When you invest in APIE you have an opportunity to impact a young person’s life in a profound way. Sometimes, young people need to be reminded that their educational opportunities matter, and mentorship is the perfect vehicle for that.

Interested in learning more about how to become a mentor? Visit our website at www.austinpartners.org/getinvolved or email our volunteer recruitment coordinator Ashley at ayeaman@austinpartners.org.

Mentors in Real Life: Rick Schumacher

Mentoring plays a crucial role in the lives of young people, helping them make decisions and providing connections that lead to future opportunity. January is National Mentoring Month, and The National Mentoring Partnership is highlighting the stories of mentors online using #MentorsIRL. At Austin Partners in Education, we see firsthand every day the positive impact mentors can have in the lives of students. To wrap up the month, we will be featuring just a few of our many wonderful mentors on our blog and social media. We’re grateful to all of our mentors who show up each week throughout the school year! You can share your own mentoring experiences with us using the hashtags #APIEShowsUp, #MentorsIRL, and #MentoringMonth.

Rick Schumacher | Q&A

Rick Schumacher currently mentors two students, a third grader and a seventh grader, who Rick has worked with since he was in the first grade. Rick has mentored with Austin Partners in Education for 10 years.

Q: What made you interested in volunteering as a mentor?

A: Several factors lead me to mentoring. I guess the first thing is that my sister-in-law is the counselor at Highland Park. She told me about the program and asked if I might be interested. The more underlying reason is that, as a kid, I greatly benefited from having a mentor myself. This is my opportunity to pass it on.

Q: How has your experience as a mentor been so far? How has it changed over the years?

A: My experience has always been positive. I have had kids for only a year and have had one of my current kids for most of his academic life. Both scenarios have interesting benefits and challenges. I think my experience has been very positive. More importantly, I feel, I hope, that no matter how long I have the opportunity to mentor a kid, they take away a positive experience, that someday they will remember back to our conversations and that remembrance might have a positive impact on them.

Q: What do you like about mentoring – what keeps you coming back year after year?

A: I love being able to interact with these amazing young people. The kids I have had the opportunity to mentor come from significantly disadvantaged upbringings, either economically or familial. The grit that the exhibit gives me great hope that they can succeed and that is why I keep coming back.

Q: Why have you chosen to work with the same mentee year after year?

A: I think the longer I get to spend with a mentee, the more I can be a positive influence. The reverse is also true. I get a great bit of satisfaction from watching these kids grow, to watch them face challenges and navigate themselves to positive outcomes. It is really something special.

Q: Do you have any favorite stories about your mentee that you could share?

A: I don’t think I would share any particular story. However, I will say that it is fascinating to watch their growth. I can remember the time that I helped teach my current middle-school mentee to tie his first pair of lace-up shoes. We now play chess together in the library and talk about things like the most impactful classes he will take in high school. I had the same experiences with my own kids, but mentoring has a different dynamic. It is like watching a series of still images where you can remember different moments separately.

Q: What lasting impact do you hope to have on your mentee?

A: I really hope that, no matter what life hurls at my mentees in the years to come, they will remember that someone has cared about their well-being. I hope that this recollection will help them to make decisions based on their self-worth.

Q: Why should someone volunteer as a mentor?

A: Deciding to mentor is a personal decision. It might not take a lot of time, only an hour a week, but the impact [of mentoring] can last a lifetime. I think it is one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life and think that, if someone’s heart is in the right place, they can have a similar experience. 

Interested in learning more about how to become a mentor? Visit our website at www.austinpartners.org/getinvolved or email our volunteer recruitment coordinator Ashley at ayeaman@austinpartners.org.

5 Ways to Show Up for Students This Holiday Season

Think of someone who supported you growing up. They could be a teacher, next-door neighbor, parent, mentor, family friend, or coach. Whoever they are, when you look back on time in school, the people who showed up for you and believed in you stay with you long after a diploma.

That’s certainly the case for Drew Dubcak, a school counselor and mentoring volunteer. Her first-grade teacher, Ms. Stevenson, instilled in her a love of learning. “She made school fun and was a “you can be anything you want to be” kind of teacher,” Drew says. Fifteen years later, Drew returned to Ms. Stevenson’s classroom—this time to learn how to be an effective teacher. “She became a mentor to me, letting me go into her classroom,” Drew says. “I got to see what it’s like to be a strong role model for young kids and not only be a teacher but have a lasting impact.”

Drew believes that showing up is key to having impact on students, much like Ms. Stevenson has done for her. “You have to be someone who sticks around, because what impact are you going to have on a kid’s life if you take off?” Drew began mentoring Tabitha six years ago, which she was in the sixth grade. Now, she’s a junior in high school, beginning to plan for college. By consistently showing up, Drew has established a close bond with Tabitha and says she’s taught her a multitude of life lessons along the way. “You learn a lot from your mentee,” Drew says. “It’s more of a privilege to be in their life than it is for you to be theirs.”

At APIE, we’re privileged to impact the lives of hundreds of Austin ISD students each year through our programming, but none of this would be possible without YOU! Here are five you can show up for students:

  1. Donate to support our work. Consider giving in honor of an individual who showed up for you when you were a student. Even small gifts can add up quickly!
  2. Run and/or fundraise for our Austin Marathon team. Whether you’re a runner or not, we’d love to have you sign up for our team, spread the word, and fundraise with us! We’re happy to share tips and templates to help make this easier. When we hit certain numbers of runners and donations, we become eligible for more money as part of the Austin Gives Miles Charity Chaser program. To learn more, email our development coordinator, Rachel Thomson, at rthomson@austinpartners.org.
  3. Tell your family, friends, and network about APIE. Help increase awareness about the work we do by sharing our mission with those in your work and personal circles. We’re always looking to get connected with the Austin community, so we also appreciate introductions to potential supporters, volunteers, sponsors, or donors.
  4. Show support on social media. Liking, commenting, and sharing our posts on social media helps increase the number of people who see our posts and learn about our work.
  5. Volunteer with us. If you aren’t already, volunteering is a great way to turn your passion for students into meaningful action. Just an hour of your time each week makes a big difference for Austin students. Have questions or just want to learn more? Visit our website or email our volunteer recruitment coordinator, Ashley Yeaman, at ayeaman@austinpartners.org.

This holiday season, we hope that you’ll show up for the causes and people you care about. Consider giving to APIE—whatever that looks like for you—in honor of the people who have showed up for you. We also encourage you to share with us on social media your person and how they impacted you. Tag us @austinpartners and use the hashtag #APIEshowsup. Together, we can ensure that caring individuals like Drew are showing up to support Austin students!

Post by: Rachel Thomson, Development Coordinator, and Ashley Yeaman, Communications & Volunteer Recruitment Coordinator

November 2019 Newsletter: A Slice of APIE

The weather is getting cooler and soon we’ll be kicking off the holiday season. We invite you to take a moment for a quick slice of APIE before you fill up on holiday treats next week! We are thankful for the continued support from our volunteers, donors, and friends. Keep reading for APIE updates, including the latest statistics from our annual program evaluation and how you can use your Target shopping to support Austin ISD students!


Program Updates 

Math Classroom Coaching (MCC)

For the 2019-20 school year, the MCC program is working with 6th and 7th graders at six middle schools, including Burnet, Covington, Dobie, Martin, Sadler Means YWLA, and Webb. We currently have almost 200 volunteers serving 669 Austin ISD students! We’re always looking for more volunteers, especially at the start of the new semester in January. To register to be a Math Classroom Coach, visit our website. For more information, email Ashley Yeaman at ayeaman@austinpartners.org.

College Readiness

This year, APIE’s College Readiness program added Burnet Middle School to our roster, and we’re now serving students at 11 middle and high schools across the district. We have already worked with nearly 200 8th, 9th, and 10th graders, and we’re excited to support more students looking to participate in Early College High School and Career Launch/P-TECH programs. By participating in these programs, our students will have the opportunity to earn an Associate’s degree and industry certifications by the time they graduate high school!

Mentoring

We currently have more than 300 mentors serving students across Austin ISD, and we’re always working to increase that number—especially at the middle and high school levels. We have a high need for mentors at the following schools: Navarro and Northeast Early College high schools; Burnet, Mendez, and Lively middle schools; and Cowan, Pease, Metz, Sims, Norman, and Mills elementary schools. To register to be a mentor, visit our website. For more information, email Ashley Yeaman at ayeaman@austinpartners.org.

GEAR UP

The GEAR UP Program is in its third year, and our students are now 8th graders! We are serving the class of 2024 at 11 middle schools, including Bedichek, Burnet, Covington, Dobie, Lively, Gus Garcia YMLA, Martin, Mendez, Paredes, Sadler Means YWLA, and Webb. This year we have 21 tutors working across the GEAR UP campuses. There are more than 130 unique classes with a GEAR UP tutor. We look forward to increasing the support both teachers and students are receiving in class and small group settings, along with providing additional support at lunch and after school.


Back-To-School Happy Hour

Despite the dreary weather, we had a great turnout at our Back-To-School Happy Hour at Contigo on October 29, which was sponsored by Bumble Bizz! We hold appreciation events like these to recognize all of our incredible volunteers. Our work wouldn’t be possible without you! If you missed this event, stay tuned to your email and our social media accounts for updates on the next one.


Volunteer Spotlight | Drew Dubcak

Photo courtesy of Drew Dubcak. Used with permission from Tabitha’s family.

Drew began working with her mentee, Tabitha, six years ago as a 6th grader. This year, Tabitha is a junior, beginning to plan for what comes next after graduation. In this Q&A, Drew shares more about her mentoring experience and why people shouldn’t be hesitant to get involved.

 

Q: Who or what inspired you to start mentoring?

A: My dad has mentored for ten years and still mentors now. I thought that it would be really awesome to do that myself. Since I had time in college, I signed up and got partnered with Tabitha. I met her when she was 12, and she turns 18 in December.

Q: How has your experience mentoring been generally? How has it changed over the years?

A: It’s been a wonderful experience. Working with Tabitha has shown me that you don’t have to put in hours upon hours to see a great change. When I first met her, she didn’t really trust me. But since I’ve been around for so long, when I show up I get this big hug. It’s been great to see her grow up. The funny thing is that Tabitha did not want to grow up. So it’s been awesome to kind of work with her and be with her along the way. She was not happy to go to middle school, and then later she didn’t want to go to high school. I feel like being there to support her was a really good experience overall.

Q: What do you think are some of the benefits of working with the same mentee on a more long-term basis?

A: I think with mentoring, consistency is key. You have to be someone who sticks around and stays. I feel that the benefit of that is that you’re seeing the works of your labor materialize.

Q: Over the years working with Tabitha, are there any stories that stand out to you?

A: Well, I know the family and I know her mom now. It’s a trusting relationship. And so last year I took her and her sister to the Trail of Lights. They’ve lived in the Austin area their entire lives, but I got to go with them to do that for their first time. It was just the most exciting thing seeing them. They were 16 and 17 years old, and they were jumping around like kids seeing all these lights. It was beautiful.

Q: Does Tabitha have an idea of what she might like to do after she graduates high school?

A: We’re in the workings right now. We’re working on getting her volunteer experience and getting her ready to go to college. She loves history and astronomy, so if Tabitha had it her way, she would be a history and astronomy professor at a college somewhere.

Q: Why should someone volunteer to mentor?

A: It’s a blessing to get outside of yourself. I mean, it doesn’t take a lot of time to go and do this. I think a lot of people get stuck in the me, me, me. Being able to work with Tabithayes, I’ve helped her, but I’ve also helped myself because she’s taught me a multitude of life lessons, including don’t take things so seriously. She often asks me “Why are you on your phone al the time?” That’s my favorite question from her. “Why does it matter?” She’ll tell it like it is. You learn a lot from your mentee, and it’s more of a privilege to be in their lives than it is for you to be in theirs.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who was hesitant to mentor?

A: I think there might be hesitations around not knowing how to handle harder conversations, but there’s a lot of support with APIE. If I had needed it, I could have reached out. I got emails about trainings. I could reach out to Dawn [Lewis, APIE’s school connections manager] if I needed help. And support staff is key. There’s a lot of support, so you’re never alone. And if you don’t fit with a child, there is probably another child that you could work with as well.

Q: What lasting impact do you hope to have on Tabitha?

A: I hope that she grows up to be that strong, independent lady that I know she is on the inside. I want her to know that she can do whatever she wants on her own. We’ve been kind of instilling that she can do things on her own. She can be that awesome history and astronomer professor that she wants to be and go to college. She can travel on her own. She can do things on her own. She doesn’t have to have someone behind her. She doesn’t have to be scared. Hopefully she’ll grow up to be an independent lady that goes for what she wants.


Support APIE’s Marathon Team

APIE is one of very few nonprofits chosen as an official charity of the Austin Marathon and last year we raised over $30,000! Our 2020 goal of $30,000 can provide tutoring for 60 math students, mentoring for 120 students, or college readiness support for 30 students. This campaign is APIE’s major annual fundraiser and you can help by:

  1. Running: If you’re a runner and running the Austin Marathon, ½ Marathon, or 5K, please consider leveraging your athleticism and fundraise for APIE in support of your run! Visit our GoFundMe page here and click on “Run for Charity.”
  2. Joining Our Team: Not a runner? No problem! You can still join the team to fundraise and share APIE’s story with friends and family (there will be prizes involved!). We challenge you to post or send out just one email and see the generosity of your network. Visit our GoFundMe page here and click on “Run for Charity.” (This will make you a part of our team and able to fundraise, but you don’t have to run in the marathon.)
  3. Donating: If neither of the above options work for you, you can donate in honor of the students you show up for each week. You understand that APIE’s programs change lives, that APIE is a nonprofit, and that we can’t do this without community support. Visit our GoFundMe page here and click on “Support a Charity,” then select “Austin Partners in Education.”

If you have any questions, please email Rachel Thomson at rthomson@austinpartners.org.


Your Target shopping can help support APIE

We are honored and excited to announce that we have been chosen to participate in a special charitable giving campaign, sponsored and funded by Target. And you have the chance to help direct a portion of Target’s donation to us! A vote is earned each time you shop at Target, online and in store. Now through January 5, vote for us through the Target Circle program to help determine how Target’s donation will be divvied up. Click here to learn more about Target Circle.


Annual Evaluation Report, 2018-2019

We’re proud to share some of the findings from our Annual Evaluation Report! Last year, our Math Classroom Coaching program worked with middle school students. The 582 8th graders that participated in the program had significantly higher academic outcomes than a matched comparison group. In 2019, 79% of APIE 8th grade math students met the STAAR passing standard, compared with 61 % of the comparison group.

APIE’s College Readiness program supported 583 students in 8th through 12th grades. The 254 seniors who participated in the program performed better on the state’s college readiness assessment, the Texas Success Initiative Assessment, compared to a matched comparison group and district seniors. Fifty percent of APIE participants met college readiness criteria on both subjects on the assessment, followed by 21% of the matched comparison group.

The full report and executive summary are available on the APIE website, under the “Results” tab.


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Starting Off on the Right Foot: Four Steps Towards Building a Positive Mentoring Relationship

Thanks to all who attended the volunteer and mentor happy hour at Tacos and Tequila last Thursday, March 27! Our coordinators had a great time getting to know you and are looking forward to seeing you again next month! If you missed the happy hour, check out the handout below, based on information from “Meaningful Mentoring.

1. Listen attentively

Sit with an open, calm posture. Laugh with your student and show genuine interest in what he/she is saying and doing.
Example Scenario: Your student takes out a book about the Great Barrier Reef and begins talking about it. You listen as your student talks and lean in slightly in your seat.

2. Ask inviting questions

Limit the number of questions you ask your student during your time together
Use “what” or “how” questions. Avoid “why” questions.
Example Scenario: As your student talks about the book, occasionally ask your student “what” he or she likes about the book or “how” she became interested in reading about the Great Barrier Reef.

3. Summarize content and feeling

When your student speaks or does something, occasionally say something that summarizes what he or she said or did
Example Scenario: Show that you were listening to your student by re-stating, in your own words, what you heard him or her say. Include any facts about the Great Barrier Reef that the student seemed most interested in speaking about.

4. Strategic self-disclosure

Tell your student some things about yourself over time. Use your own experiences to further explain something the student is reading or doing to give more context and create better understanding.
Example Scenario: Tell your student about a time when you visited a coral reef. Or tell your student about an interesting book or article that you have been reading and have your student ask you inviting questions this time.

 

 

 

Give the Gift of a Mentor

APIE Mentoring by the Numbers:

  • 972: Number of volunteers who have registered to mentor through APIE for the 2013-14 school year
  • $21,938: Value of volunteer service each WEEK if all 972 are placed, according to Independent Sector’s value of a volunteer hour in Texas
  • $125: APIE’s cost to support one mentor for one school year
  • 124: Number of Austin ISD schools where APIE mentors can serve
  • 4,000: Number of students still on the waiting list for a mentor in Austin ISD

Mentors can positively impact student attitudes and ambitions. Research has proved many benefits of mentoring, including:

  • keeping students in school
  • building students’ self-esteem
  • reducing likelihood of student involvement in risky behavior or use of illicit substances
  • decreasing depressive symptoms
  • improving student grades and academic attitudes
  • Developing students’ communications skills,
  • modeling and encouraging goal setting and taking steps to achieve those goals

To meet the needs of more students, we invite you to Give the Gift of a Mentor this December. Beginning with #GivingTuesday on December 3 and continuing through December 31, APIE’s goal is to raise $10,000 to broaden support for its Mentoring Program. Thanks to a generous $5,000 matching grant challenge from the Oppenheimer Foundation, a private Houston-based family foundation, your donation has the power to double its impact!

About #GivingTuesday

Give the Gift of a Mentor#GivingTuesday is a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the giving season added to the calendar on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The second annual #GivingTuesday is on December 3, 2013. In the same way that retail stores take part in Black Friday, we want the giving community to come together for #GivingTuesday. (via)

APIE Mentors

Positive Role Models! Heroes! Self-esteem boosters! BFF’s!

These are just a few ways to describe the APIE mentors who work with students throughout Austin ISD.

Unlike the classroom coaching programs at APIE, mentors serve in a non-academic volunteer role. They meet with students during their lunch period and engage in activities such as playing games, drawing, reading, and sharing stories, but primarily engage in conversation. By consistently spending time with these children and listening to them, they build trust and serve as a confidante, problem solver, and sounding board. Mentoring a student can help build self-esteem, increase the likelihood of a child completing school and pursuing post-secondary education, decrease destructive behaviors, and boost academic potential.

APIE mentors meet with their students once a week, usually for 30 minutes at lunch time, throughout the school year. Many of our mentors continue to work with their student as they progress through school; some relationships began as early as 2nd grade and continued through the student’s senior year of high school. In 2012-13, approximately 770 APIE mentors served students in 118 AISD elementary, middle, and high schools. All mentors receive a background check and training. So far in 2013-14, a record 970 volunteers have signed up to mentor through APIE!

School Connections Manager Dawn Lewis and Communication Interns Noah Schubert are working hard to produce a newsletter specifically for mentors. Look for this in the coming months for mentoring tips, best practices, and stories from your fellow mentors!