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Editorial: Consider being a mentor for high school seniors

Editorial Board • Jun 23, 2020 at 10:30 PM

What a year it has been for high school seniors. As Tim Belisle, chairman of the Johnson City Board of Education told Science Hill graduates, “You have finished high school in the midst of a global pandemic. This is the first time in nearly 100 years anyone can say that.”

In a year of unprecedented challenges and confusion, 2020 graduates headed for higher education have never needed guidance and direction as they do now, and they are getting it from a unique program called Tennessee Achieves, a part of the Tennessee Promise program now in its fifth year.

Although TN Promise is a financial aid program, a critical component and often the difference maker for many students is TN Achieves, which provides volunteer mentors to work with three to seven students as they transition from high school to college. Mentors send reminders of important deadlines, serve as a trusted college resource, and most important, encourage students to reach their full potential.

All mentors complete a one-hour training session in person or online, and they receive weekly updates on the program and its requirements.

“While TN Promise funding is important, our mentors represent the heart of our program,” TN Achieves Executive Director Krissy DeAlejandro said. “In a time when all students are encountering change, mentor support and encouragement continue to be difference makers in the success of the TN Promise program but more importantly for the students it serves. I have learned you cannot replace a caring, committed support system, especially during times of transition.”

TN Achieves mentors spend only about one hour per month in their volunteer role. “While the time commitment is small, we know the impact mentors are having is significant,” TN Achieves Deputy Director of Partnerships Graham Thomas said. “If you believe education is important, can provide encouragement to a student, and have just one hour a month, you can serve as an outstanding mentor for students in your community.”

Mentors are able to support their community almost entirely from home, offering support to students via text, email and calls all on their own schedule. They are in place for this graduating class.

Who knows what the future holds for the graduating Class of 2021 starting its final year of high school this fall, but they will need about 9,000 mentors to provide their local support systems next year, and that recruitment effort is now underway.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to be a mentor, but it makes a large difference for the graduates. Please consider being part of this program. To learn more about it or apply to mentor, visit TNAchieves.org or contact Thomas at (615) 604-1306.

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