FRESNO, Calif., Jan. 27, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- National Mentoring Month reminds us that mentorship is a critical component when it comes to helping at-risk students graduate. Learn4Life, a dropout recovery program that offers a free high school diploma and job training, announced today its expanded partnership with CenCal Mentoring Academy throughout California's Central Valley.
Learn4Life began offering CenCal's 32-week life and social skills curriculum to its students nearly two years ago. Since then, student participation has grown rapidly, and students who work with CenCal mentors perform 20 percent better on average than those who do not. Studies1 report a 55 percent increase in college enrollment in young adults who have a mentor. CenCal mentors are deployed at eight Learn4Life resource centers throughout Central California, with plans to expand to neighboring counties.
Fresno, California, is one of the poorest cities in the country, with more than 30 percent of its population living below the poverty line2. Former Fresno mayor and founder of CenCal, Alan Autry was once an at-risk youth with no desire to obtain a high school diploma; but with positive role models and mentors in his life, he moved on to become mayor of the city. Autry saw the desperate need for a mentorship program and founded CenCal Mentoring Academy to help coach at-risk youth to be successful in adult life.
"Students need to know that you care before they care what you think," Autry explained. "With student issues intensifying over the past three decades, CenCal saw a need to help beyond-at-risk students get their life in order so they could learn."
The partnership allows students to benefit from being mentored by a trained professional who can help them deal with a myriad of struggles, such as teenage pregnancy, ill parents, extreme truancies and low self-esteem. Trained mentors work with the students through home visits, classroom sit-ins and after-class meetups to understand the root of the problem and prepare a coping plan together. "We seek strong mentor-coaches because our message is that we don't give up on anyone, even if you give up on yourself," added Autry.
He points out that while there are many mentoring programs, CenCal is designed to address the specific issues at-risk students face. Most CenCal mentors are recruited from the student's own community to ensure there is a common understanding of each student's environment. The mentors go through an intensity challenge to ensure they are mentally equipped and trained to dedicate hours a day to an at-risk student who is in need.
And the program is helping save some of the most underserved students. As one recent graduate said, "I want to give a shout-out to my mentor. He pushes me to be somebody I know I can be, somebody that I didn't think I was — and if it weren't for this school and my mentor, I wouldn't be where I am today."
Founded in 2001, Learn4Life is a nonprofit workforce innovation partner that offers a free high school diploma and job skills training program for at-risk students. Its unique model includes personalized learning, flexibility, one-on-one attention and job readiness programs that help students prepare for a future beyond high school. Learn4Life serves 35,000 students in 27 counties across California and in Ohio. For more information, please visit www.learnfourlife.org.
1Source: The National Mentoring Partnership
Ann Abajian, Learn4Life
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