The Erie Neighborhood House TEAM mentoring program earned Gold Star status from MENTOR Illinois, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding the quality and quantity of mentoring relationships for children and youth.
The initiative engages 100 students in grades 7 through 12 in a holistic approach, pairing them with volunteer mentors from the community who help them with school work, applying for college and navigating the complex world of financial aid and scholarship assistance.
Students are also able to participate in job shadowing, workshops and other college and career exploration opportunities through TEAM.
“The Gold Star designation shows the incredible dedication our volunteers and staff have for our students,” said Joshua Fulcher, director of Expanded Learning Programs for Children and Youth.
He pointed out that in addition to actual programmed time—mentors meet with students one evening each week during the school year—significant amounts of work happens behind the scenes to ensure youth are able to thrive.
“Mentors are even more valuable to the success of first-generation college students. They are more likely to make better choices in life because of their mentor’s guidance.”
– Maria Muñoz, assistant director of Youth Options Unlimited
TEAM has been wildly successful since its inception in 1984. Over the last 22 years, its high school graduation rate is at 100 percent and college placement rate is a stunning 98 percent.
“Our volunteer mentors are the propellers that drive this program’s success,” said Maria Muñoz, assistant director of Youth Options Unlimited (YOU) at Erie House. She oversees the TEAM program, including the recruitment and supervision of close to 100 volunteer mentors.
“Mentors are even more valuable to the success of first-generation college students,” she added. This is particularly important at Erie House, where the majority of students in the program are among the first in their family to go to college. “They are more likely to make better choices in life because of their mentor’s guidance.”
MENTOR Illinois provides workshops and resources for mentoring programs as well as individual mentors with the ultimate goal of building the capacity and effectiveness of programs throughout the state. It is an affiliate member of a broader network known as MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.
“Our TEAM program helps students build such a strong foundation for success,” said Erie House executive director Kirstin Chernawsky. “The MENTOR Illinois Gold Star designation is an affirmation of the great work Joshua, Maria and the YOU staff do to facilitate growth and learning. It’s also a terrific reminder of how much of an impact volunteer mentors can make in the lives of our youth.”
TEAM is a component of the YOU program and is made possible through grant funding from several institutional partners, including Angell Foundation, Houlsby Foundation and Woodward Charitable Trust.
For more information on Youth Options Unlimited and the TEAM program at Erie House, please visit www.eriehouse.org