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Family & Community Outreach


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Mentoring/Student Assistance Initiatives

Kathleen Forsyth
Program Specialist
Bureau of Family and Community Outreach
Phone: 850-245-0695

Funds are appropriated by the Legislature to the Department of Education each year for Mentoring and Student Assistance Initiative grants. The purpose is to improve student performance for at-risk students who are low-performing by providing additional learning opportunities, increase personal responsibility and community involvement; discourage drug and alcohol use, use of weapons and other delinquency involvement; reduce dropout rates; and improve academic achievement.

Commissioner's Academic Tournament

The Commissioner's Academic Challenge is a highly competitive academic statewide high school tournament inaugurated in 1986 and now in its 26th year. Participating districts are placed in three divisions based on the fall FTE summary provided by the Florida Department of Education. A maximum of six teams may compete in one competition round. This is not a quick response, trivial pursuit contest. Instead, it is a slower-paced tournament in which players are asked questions from the areas of language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, the fine arts, world languages (French and Spanish) and technology.

This event is funded by the DOE, and many additional private sponsors.

Best Buddies Florida Program

Best Buddies International provides mentoring activities to intellectually challenged students to help them become integrated with other students and promote social inclusion in the community. Middle schools and high schools throughout the state are targeted. Each chapter pairs students with and without intellectual challenges in one-to-one friendships. Through their Best Buddies friendship, these students learn social skills, develop self-confidence, and in some cases learn leadership skills within the club.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Program

Big Brothers Big Sisters provide mentoring activities for at-risk and low performing students, address unmet needs at low performing schools, and provide training and support to mentors. They work within low performing schools to provide academic assistance to students who are identified as at-risk in one of the FCAT learning areas. Students are assigned to a mentor and a case manager who tracks the students’ success. Activities include one-on-one mentoring, homework support, extended classroom learning, and addressing individual skill gaps.

Black Male College Explorers Program

The Black Male College Explorers Program provides a continuance of academic support in middle and high schools for students to matriculate to a university or college upon completion of the 12th grade. This program is a prevention/intervention program designed specifically to prevent black males from dropping out of high school, facilitate their admission to college, and significantly increase their chances of earning a college degree. Schools identify at-risk black makes in grades 7th-11th. Selected students stay on campus for five weeks and participate in highly concentrated developmental experiences.

Boys & Girls Club Mentoring Services Program

Boys and Girls Clubs provide tutoring and mentoring services for at-risk and low performing students after school. It includes Power Hour (homework help and tutoring which raises students’ academic proficiency), Power Learn (reinforces and enhances skills and knowledge learned at school), Goals for Graduation (teaches students the concept of academic goal setting), other academic activities, parent involvement, and collaboration with schools.

Florida Mentoring Partnership

The Florida Mentoring Partnership seeks to help students excel in school and life by recruiting caring adults and older youth to become mentors. The programs is managed by Volunteer Florida, and the partnership is comprised of local communities, caring nonprofits, schools and volunteers that share a common goal of helping youth learn to lead successful, responsible lives. Previous Partners included: YMCA (1st-12th grades) Teen Trendsetters Mentors (2nd-3rd grades): Big Brothers, Big Sisters (primarily 4-6th graders); Take Stock in Children (7th through high school students); Best Buddies (students with disabilities) and Boys & Girls Clubs (after school homework assistance.)

Girl Scouts of Florida Get Real Mentoring Program

The Girl Scouts of Florida’s Get Real Mentoring Program is designed to provide mentoring activities for at-risk middle school girls to improve their student performance. The participants are provided reading and writing opportunities and interactive activities that teach life skills. This program connects at-risk middle school girls with caring community members that are serving as mentors. The goal of the “Get Real” curriculum is to increase the girls’ motivation and ability to make positive life choices that will impact school performance.

Learning for Life Program

The Learning for Life Program is designed to improve student performance by providing teaching and learning opportunities to students and teachers. This program includes Character Education components; it is designed to support schools in preparing youth to successfully handle today’s society and to enhance their self-confidence, motivation, and self-worth. The curriculum is classroom-based which provides an action learning process with grade specific lesson plans for all students K-12. To implement this program in their weekly lesson’s teachers are provided training.

Take Stock in Children Program

Take Stock in Children provides mentors and college scholarships for low-income children between 6th and 9th grades in order to enhance their likelihood of college preparation and attendance. This program helps low-income children succeed by providing college and vocational-technical scholarships, volunteer mentors, student advocates, tutoring, and community support. Each child signs a contract agreeing to maintain good grades, to remain drug and crime free, and to meet with his/her mentor regularly to receive the scholarship. Each child is assigned a caring adult mentor who meets with the student at his/her school for one hour once a week.

Teen Trendsetters

Teen Trendsetters, a program of the Barbara Bush Foundation serves academically at-risk youth and provides mentoring activities through the Teen Trendsetter Reading Mentors (TTRM) to improve student performance. High school students are recruited and trained to mentor 3rd grade students in one-to-one reading sessions. These sessions may occur before, during, or after school. The mentoring and reading materials for TTRM are designed for students at different reading levels and to incorporate different learning styles. The mentor training provides a practical hands-on approach to working with the mentee and the reading materials.

Florida State Alliance of YMCAs Program

The YMCA READS! Program provides mentoring and tutoring assistance in reading to at-risk 1st and 2nd graders. Using the Systematic Instruction in Phoneme Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words, the volunteer mentors not only assist students in their reading mechanics, but they also work to instill a love of reading and literature in the students. First and second graders from low performing schools or schools that have a high percentage of students scoring below grade level in reading. YMCA READS! Site coordinators and volunteer mentors work with the students in small groups, on a 1:2 basis, or on a 1:1 basis mentoring the referred students in reading and also on character development and building self-esteem.