Mentors make difference for South Florida students

City Year helps students get back on right path

MIAMI - Every morning, students at Miami Edison Middle School get a rock stars welcome.

Mentors from the City Year program chant, clap, and sing as the students walk into school.

It's just one way the group likes to help kids start their day off on the right foot.

The program places a group of mentors in a school for an entire year.

"Our goals are to target students who are off track in the indicators that we know can lead to a student dropping out of school, and those are attendance, behavior and course performance in math and reading," said Vivianne Bohorques, City Year's deputy director of impact.

Michael Griffin was one of those students, who is now in 8th grade and thriving in his classes, thanks to support from his friends at City Year.

"It makes my school work easier because, in school, they're in my classes, so they take what you're learning in class and then they help you," said Griffin.

Jerry Calvert is in his second year with the program. This year, he is a team leader. Calvert admits it's hard work, but says it pays off.

"You just see astonishing stories, story after story of kids that were going the wrong path who decide, 'I want to finish school and I want to go to college,'" said Calvert.

For Greg Anger, it's his first year as a mentor, and already he can see changes in the students.

"It's good when you see kids that were not engaged becoming more and more engaged and, you know, wanting to come to class and be excited about school," said Anger.

City Year has been working with Miami-Dade County for the past five years and is now in 15 schools. Recently, a few high schools were added to its list.

"Miami Jackson was one of the first high schools we went into and, last year, it improved from a 'D' to an 'A' school," said Bohorques.

Program organizers think the success lies with the mentors. Thousands apply for a position and only a few get the chance to make a difference in a young person's life.

"For the kids, this is a person who is not my teacher, not my parent but is older than me, a little older than me and is walking the walk, is doing great things, is a positive model," said Bohorques.

Students see the same group day after day and the connection blossoms throughout the year.

"It just gives you a sense of meaningful work. I love just to be here and be with our students," said Calvert.

City Year is an AmeriCorps program, and the mentors are paid a small stipend for the year. They are working on expanding the program into Broward County.

Click here for more information on City Year.

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