Odera Anyasinti, GEAR UP Program Specialist, talked with us about the great work University of Texas Terry Scholars do to support students at Crockett Early College High School. Through APIE Mentoring, tutoring, and workshops, they are inspiring students as they plan for their next steps after high school. Read on to learn from Odera about the program and its impact!

 


 

Q: How did the partnership with UT Terry Scholars come about?

A: I came into the GEAR UP program when the students were in eighth grade at Bedichek Middle School. I was going around meeting the students, and they wanted extra guidance. They wanted to talk about stuff that was going on, and there were hundreds of them and one of me. I thought if we could get mentors for these kids that would really meet the need. They could have someone to talk to—someone that’s a trusted adult to give them advice. I went to our project director, and she suggested connecting with a student she had met from UT Terry Scholars.

We were really excited to get started, and they were excited to give back to the community. But then the pandemic started, so we stayed in communication and pivoted. They recorded three different virtual workshops for us. We decided when it was safe to come back in person, we would start mentoring. By this time, GEAR UP had transitioned to high school and I came to Crockett Early College High School. We were still doing virtual learning, and I asked if they wouldn’t mind coming in once or twice a month during lunchtime and doing live workshops with the students. I thought it would be good for engagement—getting the students to log into Zoom—and students could ask questions about college after the presentations.

Q: How does the program work currently now that everything is back in person?

A: We have two different components. Right now, we have about five Terry Scholars that have a one-on-one mentee. They come in once or twice a month. Some of them have met with the same student for two to three years.

We also kept that workshop component because it was just so popular with the students. The Terry Scolars will go and help with AVID classes and do college workshops on a wide range of topics. We’ve had workshops on how to find the right major, how to find scholarships, and college readiness. We’ve also talked about self-care and mental health, along with workshops on the importance of mentoring. That went really well. They’ve even done live tours where they are on their phone showing buildings on the UT campus. It’s really engaging stuff. As staff and educators, we can say things 100 times, but it sounds so much cooler coming from a college student.

Since the partnership started, the Terry Scholars have been so helpful.  During COVID, they wanted to do a project for teachers. They made 75 thank you cards for teachers with candy bags and dropped them off. Now, if I have a student that needs help with say an advanced math class, I can reach out to them and ask if there’s someone who would be willing to tutor. They’ve edited essays—just any type of support that we need. The group is so diverse with really bright, motivated students that are willing to jump in and fill in the gaps.

Q: What is one of your favorite aspects of the partnership with UT Terry Scholars?

A: Every year they host us at the University of Texas. We get to take our students to campus and they get to meet their mentor in person. The mentors give them a personalized tour of the campus. We all eat lunch together and it’s just such a great opportunity, especially after a whole year of mentorship, to be on the campus and see their mentors.

Q: Can you share some particular mentoring experiences that you think have been especially impactful?

A: There’s one student that’s in her second year with her mentor. The student is now a senior, and the mentor is a sophomore at UT. I remember when they were initially matched, the student was a little shy. The mentor has all this energy and a big personality, so I thought that they would be a really good pairing. The student started taking school classes more seriously because she was struggling a little bit when it came to math. She wasn’t necessarily sure if she wanted to go to college. I was editing the student’s college essay not too long ago, and she mentioned her Terry Scholar and how she helped her apply for college and figure out that she wanted to go to college. She said she was grateful to have a mentor who pushed her and showed her that she can do it.

Another one I can think of is a student in advanced classes. Super bright student, on it academically, but she was just really struggling with one of her math courses. And every time I see her meet with her mentor, they’re in the books. It turns into a tutoring appointment, which I think is kind of cool too because it doesn’t always have to be just sitting there and talking about what’s going on. She is utilizing it in a different way.

Q: Why do you think people should consider being mentors with middle and high school students?

A: For me personally, I’ve benefited from mentors my whole life. From the time I was in middle school, I was assigned a mentor. I was kind of a shy kid. Smart kid, but the kind that didn’t want a lot of attention, like in the back doing my work, won’t cause you any problems. I remember the confidence I gained by just having an adult saying I see you. Like I see you, go try, don’t be afraid. Even if you fall, get up and try again.

Just being seen does a lot for students. Going to high school and going into college—when you feel like a situation is so big, or you have big life choices to make and you don’t even know where to turn or where to start, having someone who’s kind of gone through it already and can give good advice is priceless. It makes such a big impact on a student’s life. Right now, especially after dealing with the COVID years and virtual learning, it’s really important that students feel connected to adults on campus, have an advocate, and know that someone is on their side and really cares.

 


 

Austin ISD middle and high schools students are looking for mentors like you! If you’d like to learn more and get involved, visit our website or contact APIE’s School Connections Manager, Wen Nguyen, at wnguyen@austinpartners.org.

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Austin Partners in Education will be closed beginning Friday, December 22 and ending Friday, January 5. We will return to normal business hours on Monday, January 8. All emails, phone calls, and volunteer background check applications will be completed upon our return. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Happy Holidays!

Austin Partners in Education cerrará comenzando el viernes 22 de diciembre y hasta el viernes 5 de enero. Volveremos al horario comercial normal el lunes 8 de enero. Todos los correos electrónicos, llamadas telefónicas y solicitudes de verificación de antecedentes de voluntarios se completarán a nuestro regreso. Gracias por su paciencia y comprensión. ¡Felices Fiestas!

Volunteer registration is closed for most AISD campuses until next school year. Registration will remain open for schools that are seeking volunteers for summer programming.

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