News (and Blog) en Copyright 2015 2015-08-04T19:14:45+00:00 How To Build A Winning Volunteer Team The Memphis Grizzlies Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Memphis Grizzlies, committed to serving the city’s youth through education and mentoring. One of the foundation’s primary areas of focus is the Grizzlies TEAM Mentor Program, a school-based initiative that matches 3 volunteers with 9 students to form a mentoring team. The program spans five different public charters, working with more than 60 mentors and 250 children. Mentoring teams meet once a week after school for 90 minutes at a time to participate in activities that build crucial life skills, with on-site support from Grizzlies Foundation staff. To become a mentor, volunteers must complete extensive training and make a year-long commitment to their team. It is Tiffani Morrow’s role as Grizzlies Team Mentor Program Coordinator to assist with volunteer recruitment, management, and retention. We turned to Tiffani to get her inside take on how she’s able to successfully engage and retain volunteers in a program that requires such a high level of commitment throughout the school year. Here are Tiffani’s top 5 tips for creating a lasting and enthusiastic volunteer team: 1.  Set up an extensive onboarding process. We consider in-depth onboarding to be very important, because our program is such a hefty commitment. An hour and a half every week—in the middle of the work day—is a big deal for a lot of people. It’s crucial that mentors in these types of programs are provided with clear expectations of their roles and responsibilities upfront, and we offer explanations and reference copies to help achieve that. You want to be sure that volunteers understand what’s coming, and have the resources to take it on. 2.  Provide a high level of support. We take mentors through our process step by step, provide extensive on-site training, and then stay on-site—always making ourselves available as a resource. Since we also provide support to several member organizations through our TEAM UP Youth Mentoring Partnership, we need to ensure that we are empowering volunteers to take what they learn back to their respective programs. It’s truly a “train the trainer” approach; we take those interested in mentoring and introduce them to the process and what it involves. We also work with volunteers already involved in a program and advise them on ways to take it to the next level. A hands-on approach makes a world of a difference. 3.  Give them a sense of their impact. It’s really important to make sure that volunteers understand the impact that they have on these kids, and that they’re part of a bigger, greater goal in this Grizzlies Foundation collaborative effort. We try to emphasize that they’re playing towards our larger goals to support their team, their city, and also their community. We like to think that we’re creating not only lifelong relationships for our mentees, but also fans. 4.  Make them feel appreciated. Events are critical to creating a sense of community amongst the volunteers, and with the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation. They’ve become an integral part of our volunteer recruitment process and retention strategy. Since we’re tied to a professional basketball team, we’re able to provide mentors with pretty unique experiences and opportunities. We do quarterly events as an added benefit of participation, and invite members out to games and other activities sponsored by the Grizzlies. 5.  Lean on Technology. As we grew the program, we needed tools to help publicize our events, recruit volunteers, and keep track of mentors. We use Eventbrite on multiple levels, including promotion of our volunteer orientations and happy hours, which are open to the public. Through the registration process, we can track things like how many people are coming, what their ticket types are, and match parents to their children. We can also get a higher level of detail around our attendees, giving us a better idea of their level of engagement with our organization. Originally posted by Eventbrite at | 8/4/15 2015-08-04T19:14:45+00:00 I Am A TEAM Mentor - Part 1: Committed to Inspire “Being a TEAM Mentor means building relationships of trust, hope and optimism for a better future.” – Robbye Good, KIPP Memphis Collegiate School How long does it take to make a difference in the lives of Memphis children? Years? Months? Weeks? What if, for only 90 minutes a week, you could be the difference a child needs? Would you do it? The TEAM Mentor Program Presented by Duncan-Williams, Inc. is a leading edge school-based program where students acquire 21st century skill sets that position them for success in the modern economy. Since its launch in 2011, the program has matched 3 volunteer mentors with 9 students to form a TEAM. Serving 7th and 8th graders, the program operates out of The Soulsville Charter School, Power Center Academy, Grizzlies Prep and KIPP Memphis Collegiate School. During the 2014 – 2015 season, 57 mentors matched with over 150 students. The goal of the TEAM Mentor Program is to inspire Memphis youth to reach up and witness the positive change they can create in their community, their families and themselves. The TEAM Mentors serve as inspiration, providing guidance and instruction through a curriculum developed in collaboration with Facing History and Ourselves. And, of course, the inspiration is reciprocal. “Being a TEAM Mentor means that I have the capacity to not only inspire a group of young men, but in return be inspired by them.” – Brandon Thomas, Soulsville Charter School The TEAM Mentor scholars are ready to continue their work, and with the help of positive adult Memphians committed to their success, they can make it happen. The ninety minute window to impart your wisdom, leadership and guidance is all it takes. Interested in joining the TEAM? Sign up for our next mentor orientation on Thursday, July 9, at FedExForum: | 6/29/15 2015-08-04T19:14:45+00:00 The Problem With Summer Break Think back to your childhood. For many, summer vacation was about freedom: freedom from homework, crowded hallways, cafeteria food and teachers. In essence, summer vacation was a rest from learning and, unfortunately, a loss thereof. Summer learning loss, also known as the summer slide, is the decrease in academic skills during the summer months. It’s not just that kids stay stagnant, retaining their current knowledge without adding anything new, it’s that they actually move backwards. According to the National Summer Learning Association, the only national nonprofit exclusively focused on closing the achievement gap through high-quality summer learning, “most students lose an average of two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months.” The same goes for reading skills, of which students can lose more than two months of grade level equivalency. This creates an achievement gap, which can become increasingly difficult to overcome. So, what’s the solution when most students would rather steer clear from structured learning during their much anticipated break? A compilation of summer learning research studies by the Johns Hopkins School of Education found that too much effort has been focused on reforming the traditional school year, rather than learning how to utilize summer vacation time. To get students motivated to work their brains during the summer, we have to instill the idea that summer break is not about freedom from learning, but about the freedom to learn in their own space and at their own pace. Summer vacation is the perfect time to explore areas of interest without the pressure of other schoolwork. For example this summer, the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation is supporting the Code Crew Grizzlies Code Camp, a six-week training camp equipping students with practical, hands-on computer science training in coding mobile apps. The camp provides 7th – 9th graders with an interest in science and technology an avenue to explore their curiosity. The Grizzlies Code Camp is just one of the many ways the Foundation is combating summer learning loss. The GrizzFIT Kids Bootcamp is continues with its summer session in partnership with Knowledge Quest. The Memphis Zoo internship program partnered with the Foundation to provide a six-week intensive summer program, where high schoolers learn operations, marketing, information technology, animal health and wellness and education. The TEAM to REACH Pipeline, a collaborative partnership between the TEAM Mentor Program and REACH Memphis, was established to create a guided path to personal and academic success beginning in seventh grade and continuing into college. For the launch, the Grizzlies Foundation sent 15 Grizzlies Prep students and TEAM Mentor alumni to Deer Hill, Colorado, at an experience designed to strengthen personal identity and increase social and emotional problem-solving. There are many ways to engage kids during the summer, and the success of our summer programs show that kids are willing to spend their break learning. The secret is to meet them where their interests lie. Share with us your ways to keep kids engaged during the summer break. Join the conversation on Facebook at Grizz Community or on Twitter and Instagram @grizzcommunity. | 6/12/15 Blog, 2015-08-04T19:14:45+00:00 Grizzlies Prep Charter School hosts “High School Signing Day” for their inaugural eighth grade class Grizzlies Prep, a public charter school committed to developing the academic achievement of sixth-eighth grade young men and founded by the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation, will “graduate” their inaugural class of eighth graders in a formal “Signing Day” event on Monday, June 1 at 8 a.m. where the scholars will choose which high school they will attend in the fall. This event is closed to the public but media is invited to attend (168 Jefferson Ave, Memphis, TN 38103) . This year’s eighth grade class is the first to complete the rigorous college preparatory curriculum that was instituted in July 2012 when Grizzlies Prep accepted their introductory sixth grade class. Now in their final year at Grizz Prep, eighth grade scholars will reveal which high school they will attend in the fall in order to demonstrate the importance of choosing a college prep high school to their fellow sixth and seventh grade scholars. Local high school representatives will also be on-site to celebrate their soon-to-be students. “I’m excited for our young men to reveal the college-prep high schools to which they have earned acceptance and incredibly proud and eager to see the great things they will achieve in high school, college, and beyond. Our eighth graders have worked hard these past three years and have internalized and demonstrated our core values. As our founding class, they will pave the way through high school and college for others to follow.”—Grizzlies Prep School Director Elizabeth Simpson It is a widely-held belief that America is experiencing a “boys crisis”, a situation characterized by a gap in academic achievement but also in social and economic well-being. Understanding that middle school is one of the most important formative educational experiences for students, Grizzlies Prep was formed in 2012 to serve young men in Memphis. “The Grizzlies have made it a priority to draw attention to the importance of first acknowledging and then addressing the needs of young men and women of all creeds and color; Grizzlies Prep is a world-class example of this journey. Elizabeth and her team do an amazing job of helping our boys grow into young men of character, instilling confidence and a successful mindset that each will take with them into high school and beyond.”—Executive Director of the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation Diane Terrell In 2014, Grizzlies Prep was named a 2014 Reward School for academic growth, surpassing 95% of other public and Charter schools in the state of Tennessee. Since August 2014, Grizzlies Prep has more than doubled the percent of scholars reading at or above grade-level, and now nearly half of all students read at or above their grade-level. Furthering the point, 19.8 percent of scholars were reading at or above their grade-level at the start of the school year in 2014, which has now grown into a staggering 46.1 percent in one school year’s time. On average, Grizzlies Prep scholars grow over two grade-levels in reading for each year they’re enrolled at Grizzlies Prep. For more information, please visit Originally posted by Memphis Grizzlies at | 2015-08-04T19:14:45+00:00 CodeCrew partners with Memphis Grizzlies Charitable Foundation in summer program There’s an app for that!  And your child can learn how to make it, thanks to CodeCrew’s partnership with the Grizzlies Charitable Foundation. Together, they’re hosting a Mobile Application Development Workshop on Saturday, May 23 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Lester Community Center. The workshop is open to students entering grades 7 through 9. Registration costs $10 and includes food and a T-shirt.  Students will learn to design and program mobile applications using MIT’s AppInventor platform. There are no prerequisites for attending. Thanks to funding from the Memphis Grizzlies Charitable Foundation, CodeCrew will use this workshop to kick off a six-week digital summer camp that teaches middle school students how to build mobile apps in June and July.  They will also host a two-day hackathon at the end of the summer to give kids a chance to showcase what they’ve learned. It’s something organizers say will help close the current digital gap in our city. “As the information economy advances, the digital skills gap is significant for adults and children nationwide, but is particularly pronounced in Memphis, where the tech community is bourgeoning, but is still behind on virtually every major indicator, threatening our city’s prosperity,” said Meka Egwuekwe, co-founder of CodeCrew. Egwuekwe helped start CodeCrew, a newly formed non-profit that focuses on youth coding.  Egwuekwe and his co-founders, Petya Grady and Audrey Jones, are participating in a summer long acceleration program with Start Co. in Memphis. They are a part of the SkyHigh Program that focuses on the unique needs of Social Impact Tech startups. They use startup building methods with social innovation building methods in an intense curriculum that will help them grow. The group hopes to provide in-depth computer science training to kids. But they also want to serve as a resource for parents, teachers and other organizations that want to address the digital skills gap. Ultimately they want to address and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in tech and the role computer science education can play in building a better Memphis. Here are the details for their first event: What: Mobile Application Development Workshop Where: Grizzlies Digital Lab, Lester Community Center located at 317 Tillman Street, Memphis, TN, 38112 When: Saturday, May 23 from 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Who: Students entering grades 7 through 9 Cost: $10 per student, scholarships available Parents interested in signing children up should visit Originally published by WMC Action News 5 at | 5/21/15 2015-08-04T19:14:45+00:00 5 Things Mentoring and the Memphis Grizzlies Have In Common The Memphis Grizzlies are once again making franchise history with their 2015 playoff run, right when our youth mentoring efforts are touching every corner of the city. Together, the team and the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation are igniting Memphis in different ways and our teams have much in common. 1. Teamwork One player does not make a team. To succeed, every player on the court must communicate and work together to win. Just like Marc Gasol (probably) couldn’t run the team on his own, mentoring can’t work if there isn’t communication and teamwork. Mentoring is a two-way street, and both mentor and mentee must be invested in the relationship and work together for it to succeed. After all, the Grizzlies become known for their defense through communication and teamwork.  2. Grit-N-Grind Tony Allen coined the term in 2011 that would go on to define the Grizzlies’ resilience. Grit-N-Grind is about giving your all in the face of adversity; it’s about never giving up when it gets hard; it’s about playing for the long term to get results. Youth mentoring is the same way: some days will be hard, some days will be easy, and it may take months before you begin to see results. That’s the thing about grit: it makes the eventual success that much more rewarding. 3. Willingness to Adapt Different teams require different strategies – how the Grizzlies play in one game may not be how they play the next. Adapting to new play styles is important to win, but so are new roles. Different challenges come up in mentoring, including some you may not know how to handle, and you may even have to change your role in the child’s life. Learn, grow and adapt to the situation. 4. Overcoming Adversity Playoffs are stacked with strong opponents: we’re currently playing the number one team in the league. That doesn’t mean success is impossible; the Grizzlies’ wins over Golden State is a testament to this. Youth mentoring fights a lot of tough battles as well, like truancy, substance abuse, attitude problems, etc. Studies from The National Mentoring Partnership show that youth mentoring is winning the battle against these opponents: those with mentors are 52% less likely to skip school and 46% less likely to use illegal drugs (and that’s a win the entire NBA can get behind). 5. Ability to Inspire The Grizzlies’ performance in the playoffs has inspired thousands of Memphians, rallying the fan base around the team like never before. Mike Conley’s reemergence on the court so soon after his surgery is just the latest addition to the Grizzlies’ lore that drives the fandom. Mentoring is also about inspiring, but on a smaller and more personal scale. The mentor serves as an inspiration for the mentee to follow or replicate, instilling qualities or behaviors to help reach his or her full growth. The Grizzlies Foundation and the Memphis community TEAM UP to increase the number of students with access to strong mentors trained to help them grow to their full potential. Do you have other ideas on how youth mentoring and the Memphis Grizzlies playoff run are similar? Let us know on Facebook at Grizz Community or on Twitter and Instagram @grizzcommunity. Join our TEAM. Volunteer at | 5/14/15 2015-08-04T19:14:45+00:00 Training for a Better Tomorrow So, you’ve decided to start a mentoring organization. All your ducks are in a row: you have a structure, the kids you want to target and maybe even a few mentors signed up. But how do you adequately screen and train the mentors for potential trouble signs? Even more so, how can you be sure the program is set up for success? For you and many other organizations like yours in Memphis, there’s the TEAM UP Training Institute. The TEAM UP Training Institute launched in December 2014 as part of the TEAM UP Youth Mentoring Partnership. The Institute is a collaboration between the Grizzlies Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters to provide best-in-class training to mentors and programs so they are equipped to improve student outcomes. The Training Institute provides 17 workshops in six components. Components include program design and management, mentor orientation and training, stewards of children training, child abuse prevention policy workshops, MentorMe data management training and Up2Us sports-based youth development training. Past workshops presented include Building a Quality Mentoring Program, Training Effective Peer Mentors and Developing Workplace Partnerships. Since its inception, over 70 mentors and 55 staff across 38 programs have completed the trainings. Of the roughly dozen organizations in MENTOR’s Mentoring Partnership Network, a national network of mentoring groups, that offer trainings, the TEAM UP Training Institute is one of only a few that offer free program and mentor trainings. “There was no consistent trainings or any core trainings teaching backend design or program management,” said Desiree Robertson, manager of the TEAM UP Youth Mentoring Partnership and the TEAM UP Training Institute. “[As a practitioner,] a lot of mistakes I made at first could have been eliminated if I had just been trained. It’s well warranted when you are prepared and know what is expected of you.” With the goal of expanding mentoring opportunities across the Mid-South, the Institute hosts trainings that detail important steps from building a quality program to screening potential mentors. For new organizations, this provides a push in the right direction and an established partner to lean on. For existing programs the trainings highlight new methods and best practices. The Training Institute provides more than just program trainings. By providing frequent mentor trainings, the Training Institute is able to help encourage mentoring throughout the city. The curriculum, developed in collaboration with Big Brothers Big Sisters, utilizes research-based data to best prepare mentors. The network of organizations in the TEAM UP Youth Mentoring Partnership means new mentors have a wide variety of choices of where to go after training, taking out a lot of the guess work around where to mentor. At a recent mentor training, Juan Acevedo noted how important many of the skills taught in the training are. “I feel much more prepared [to mentor] than I did going in,” Acevedo said. “As a school teacher, a lot of what I learned can be applied to my students as well. The trainings help you understand how best to support a kid, what they need, that kind of thing. I can carry those skills throughout my life, not just in mentoring.” In the end, the TEAM UP Training Institute is about preparing people and programs to impact children’s lives through mentoring. Most of the time, all that’s needed to make a difference is our time. | 5/7/15 2015-08-04T19:14:45+00:00 Creating Change With Service and TEAMwork Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Students in the TEAM Mentor Program recently exemplified this idea, creating service projects that touched all corners of Memphis and countless lives. As part of the 8th grade curriculum, scholars from The Soulsville Charter School, KIPP Memphis Collegiate School and Power Center Academy partnered with 11 community organizations to create and implement service learning projects. These projects encouraged the scholars to think critically about ways to serve the Memphis community, while also promoting a sense of civic engagement and responsibility. Representatives provided overviews of their organizations’ needs, but it was up to the students to create, plan and implement the projects. Mentors served as advisors, keeping the students on track. The National Youth Leadership Council, a national organization promoting service learning, defines service learning as “an approach to teaching and learning in which students use academic knowledge and skills to address genuine community needs.” It combines instruction with volunteerism, allowing students to create real-world guided service projects that impact their local community. Combining the TEAM Mentor curriculum with meaningful community service allows scholars to learn about their role in bettering society and the process that goes into planning events. Each TEAM spent two months creating and implementing unique service projects: 1. TEAM Pretty Hustlers of The Soulsville Charter School worked with Carpenter Art Garden to build a compost bin and conduct activities with neighborhood children. 2. Scholars from KIPP Memphis Collegiate School partnered with Greenlaw Community Center to serve meals to the homeless. 3. Power Center Academy TEAM Kreative Goddess Squad led a forum at their school with Facing History & Ourselves on stereotypes, cliques and labels. 4. The Foreign Thinkers TEAM learned about HIV and STD prevention with Be Proud! Be Responsible! Memphis! of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and hosted a community health fair for their peers at The Soulsville Charter School. 5. KIPP Memphis Collegiate School scholars collected toiletries and essential supplies for seniors and delivered them with MIFA on the Meals on Wheels route. 6. TEAM Dreamcatchers of Power Center Academy worked with the Church Health Center to host a Physical Fitness Day for their peers, featuring a discussion on the importance of health and fitness. 7. The Soulsville Charter School TEAM Six Kings partnered with the Salvation Army’s Purdue Center of Hope and held a basketball skills clinic for shelter residents. 8. Scholars at KIPP Memphis created a recycling campaign for their school with Shelby Farms Parks Conservancy. They also planted trees at Shelby Farms Park as part of the 1 Million Trees Campaign. 9. Power Center Academy scholars partnered with Clean Memphis for the March Watershed Stewardship Challenge and cleaned Nonconnah Creek.  10. TEAM No Fail Zone of The Soulsville Charter School raised over $250 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital by selling tickets to a basketball fundraiser featuring teachers and mentors playing against the scholars. 11. Scholars from Power Center Academy decorated FedExFamilyHouse for Easter and assembled welcome packages for the residents. The projects culminated with the 3rd Annual TEAM Mentor Service Learning Championship Finale, where each group presented their project to their family and peers in hopes of being named Service Champions. TEAM Foreign Thinkers placed first, receiving tickets to the Grizzlies vs. Pacers game on Wed., April 15, while the Clean Memphis and Shelby Farms Parks Conservancy teams placed second and third, respectively. All, however, left with a renewed sense of community engagement. “To us, giving back to the community means improving it,” said Cortasia Lott, a Soulsville Charter School scholar that worked with Be Proud! Be Responsible! Memphis! “Many of my friends have told me they know a lot more about STDs and HIV now [after our service learning project], which was our goal.” When speaking in terms of scholarly growth, “[The biggest improvement was] confidence in themselves, being confident and being experts in HIV and STDs and things of that nature,” said Chris Francheschi, education outreach for Be Proud! Be Responsible! Memphis! “At first they didn’t have that confidence. They were scared and it was a touchy subject, [but] they put in the hours and dedication to learn the subject and teach others.” It’s safe to say that Margaret Mead would be proud of these students. | 4/21/15 2015-08-04T19:14:45+00:00 Finding Fulfillment Through Empowerment Purpose Realized A nondescript green door sits in a shopping center on South Mendenhall, sandwiched between a vacant flower shop and small general store. Behind this door, Adrian Winfrey, executive director and founder of GirlzLife Empowerment Program, remembers the journey that brought her here. Flash back to 2006: Adrian Winfrey is working for a children’s ministry. The work is great, but something is missing. What do you do when you feel your work isn’t your calling? “I wasn’t necessarily fulfilled with children’s ministry and I didn’t think that was my purpose,” Winfrey said. “There was no particular reason why the desire was so strong [to start GirlzLife], it just was there for whatever reason. I don’t know.” GirlzLife Empowerment Program, a member of the Grizzlies TEAM UP Youth Mentoring Partnership, tasks young women with overcoming the challenges and socioeconomic factors faced in their homes, schools and communities that negatively influence their behavior and help to create positive change within them. Currently, 21 girls are served in the program: 12 in the GirlzLife center and nine at Veritas College Preparatory Charter School.  A report from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, an extension of the United States Department of Justice that guides federal juvenile justice issues, found that truancy starts early and is related to substance abuse, high school dropout and social isolation.  According to Winfrey, she wanted to work with girls that were in these beginning stages of trouble, before they were too far off track. Flash forward, today: GirlzLife Empowerment Program is in its second year, and Winfrey hasn’t looked back. Growth Behind the Green Door Creating your own mentoring program isn’t easy, but when Winfrey was developing Girlzlife, she stumbled across the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring from the National Mentoring Partnership. The program’s teaching concepts were also identified using the 40 developmental assets, defined as the building blocks for healthy development in adolescents, to teach support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, commitment to learning and positive identity and values.  With the handbook’s help and the developmental assets, she was ready to open the green door in about six months. “I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know where to start,” Winfrey laughed. “I didn’t know what to do, and just happened to come across it. That makes it a whole lot easier.” Winfrey worked with the district attorney’s office to find girls between ages 13 and 15 on the cusp of trouble. Recruiting mentors was the biggest struggle, she recalls; out of about 50 women to show interest in mentoring, they ended up with about 15. GirlzLife fills the gap for lessons that aren’t necessarily taught in schools. The most popular of the eight programs administered by GirlzLife is Generation Change, a financial series designed to help the girls see how money works in a real context. “They really had no clue what it takes to run a household, how much money you could actually make on a job, what expenses you could have as an adult,” Winfrey said. “They had no clue about what mortgage would be, or taxes taken out of your check, so it was really exciting. We did budgets and they got a chance to really find out what their parents are dealing with.” Tiara’s Turn When Winfrey reflects on her journey, she’s still not sure what ignited the drive to get her here. Needless to say, countless empowered young women are thankful for Winfrey’s vision. One success stands out in particular to Winfrey. The girl, Tiara, came into the program as “the worst one, worst attitude, very angry, wanting to fight basically every girl in the program,” Winfrey noted. Vicki, the girl’s mentor went to Tiara’s school, talked to her guidance counselors, worked with her mom and helped her improve her grades. Today, Tiara is an honor roll student, a cheerleader and is pledging a high school sorority. Results like this are the reason Winfrey does what she does. While the majority of girls are only required to stay a year, the retention rate is indicative of the program’s overall success: every girl present at the founding of the program is still participating. In the end, that’s what the program is all about: giving girls a second chance to empower themselves. | 3/27/15 2015-08-04T19:14:45+00:00 Breaking Barriers With Opportunity Statistics show that only 6% of Memphis high school students graduate college-ready. But with a little push and some help from the College Offers Opportunities for Life (COOL) program, a unique class of students can become first-generation college students. MIFA-COOL is a college readiness and life preparedness program for first-generation college student and is part of the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA). The organization has supported the independence of vulnerable seniors and families in crisis throughout Memphis for over four decades. COOL currently serves 76 juniors and seniors at George Washington Carver High School and Booker T. Washington High School with GPAs between 2.0 and 3.0. Oftentimes, students with these GPAs tend to fall through the cracks, thinking that college isn’t for them. Furthermore, COOL students and their peers face multiple barriers that stand in the way of making it to college: access to technology, limited financial resources for tests and applications and a lack of confidence in one’s abilities to make it in college, to name a few. Nationally, there are 478 students for every one counselor, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. That means school guidance counselors have limited time to spread among many students, particularly ones that fall in the middle of the grade spectrum. COOL fills that gap by providing one-on-one attention to students in an area they saw had the greatest need, Andrea Hill, COOL Program Manager, said, hoping to “really help broaden their horizon and give them the opportunity to even think about college as an option.” COOL helps students break down college barriers with a guiding hand. When a student doesn’t have a computer or the internet to complete the applications, COOL provides access. When a student can’t afford the ACT testing fee, COOL pays for the test. When students are not sure what forms are needed for the FAFSA or even what that is (Federal Application for Federal Student Aid), COOL has workshops on completing them. When students have trouble with scholarship essays, COOL meets one-on-one to help knock it out and look for other scholarships. When students need a support network to help with the transition from home to college, COOL helps prepare them for success in college and, eventually, career. Overall, COOL walks students along the path to becoming first generation college students. To help further prepare students for college, COOL plans to introduce a mentoring program featuring COOL alumni. In addition to this, Hill also shared future plans to implement a leadership program for the COOL students and a parent institute. By expanding the support network, Hill hopes COOL’s push helps students see everything in front of them and take advantage of their opportunities. “They have options,” Hill said. “We have to really open their eyes … to be able to achieve what they want to achieve.” | 3/20/15 Blog, 2015-08-04T19:14:45+00:00