Mentorship for at-risk students is making a difference for boys in Kalamazoo schools.
At a recent lunchtime gathering, five boys told Johnny Edwards, director of Kalamazoo Public Schools secondary education, about their aspirations. The first answers were pretty typical for eighth graders – football player, actor, basketball player. But when one boy said he wanted to be an engineer, Lewis smiled.
Edwards is helping the group of boys at Milwood Magnet School in weekly lunch sessions as part of the public schools’ mentoring program. The idea is to “wrap our arms around” students with role models, according to superintendent Michael Rice.
“It’s really critical that our young men understand how much we care about them and want to support them,” Rice said. “There is a place to be a teacher and also a place to get eye-level and have a different kind of relationship.”
Career counseling and support is open to any Kalamazoo Public School student, but last year, African American boys were the sole focus of the mentors. This was because their graduation rate is lowest of any group at KPS.
The program is now in its second year, and has tripled the number of mentors. Female staff members are serving as role models for girls, and community leaders have been recruited to mentor boys.