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United Way Mentoring Program Has Expanded, and It Needs Volunteers

To keep Pittsburgh kids on track as yet another school year picks up speed, United Way’s middle school mentoring program has expanded to two more Pittsburgh Public Schools, Brookline and Colfax.

As part of the expansion the program is looking for more mentors to visit their mentees at 1 of the 14 participating schools at least once a week from October-May.

“Students begin to lose interest in the education process in middle school… [We’re] trying to keep them on the right path towards positive things, [by] helping them to feel like there’s another caring adult that’s there,” said Damon Bethea, Mentoring Project Director at United Way Allegheny County.

The program began in 2009, and has since paired 1,500 students with adult volunteers.  This year the program expects to mentor 430 middle schoolers.

“For the most part they are students who may not have had that sort of coaching or encouragement … and so on the academic end it might just be some basic things, like helping them to understand the importance of studying prior to a test not cramming the night before.” said Bethea.

Last school year’s mentored students had a daily attendance rate of 84%, 10% higher than students who did not participate. Also before the program began last year only 34% of the participants qualified for the Pittsburgh Promise, but after the school year 57% qualified.

“Often in our community [people] talk about ways in which we want to engage young people and we want to help them to get on the right track, and ‘Be a Middle School Mentor’ is a great opportunity, and you get a lot more than you give in this experience,” said Bethea.

Those looking to become a mentor can apply online

Jess was accepted as a WESA fellow in the news department in January 2014. The Erie, PA native attends Duquesne University where she has a double major--broadcast journalism and political science. Following her anticipated graduation in May 2015, she plans to enter law school or begin a career in broadcast journalism.
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