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Foundation funds mentoring for eighth-graders

Mentors will work with eighth-graders at 23 CMSD schools this year through a program paid for largely by the Cleveland Foundation and the state.

The True2U program will match 200 mentors with 850 students this year. Those numbers will grow over the next two years, until the program serves all of CMSD’s nearly 70 elementary schools and an estimated 2,400 children.

True2U will help students navigate what can be a difficult transition to high school and broaden horizons with planning for postsecondary education and careers. The attention comes at a critical stage that can determine whether students persevere in school until they graduate.

“We want to make sure young people see the future and that there’s a plan for that future,” said Lisa Bottoms, Cleveland Foundation program officer for human services and youth development.

With help from the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the foundation has recruited about three-fourths of the 200 mentors needed for the first year. Bottoms said large companies and institutions like Lubrizol, MetroHealth, KeyBank and Medical Mutual have embraced the cause.

The program will begin on Friday, Sept. 17, a week after eighth-graders gather at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center to hear details.

Mentors have undergone training led by Stedman Graham, a leadership consultant and author. The mentoring program will include a curriculum based on Graham’s book, “Teens Can Make It Happen, Nine Steps to Success.”

Once a month, the eighth-graders, divided into groups of 10, will meet for three hours with a teacher and two mentors. The teachers also will cover the concepts during regular instruction.

Kate Schwab, a CMSD curriculum instruction manager, said the eighth-graders’ journey will begin by researching where they will go to high school.

Under The Cleveland Plan, a state-approved blueprint for reform, CMSD operates a “portfolio district, with a growing number of school models from which students and families can choose. Schwab said careful consideration is needed to find the right fit.

“It’s about understanding who they are, where they want to go and how high school can help them start their pathway,” she said.

The teenagers also will go on field trips that include a college visit, job-shadowing experience or community-service project.

Students will reflect on who they are and their strengths. Each also will be asked to develop a “success plan.”

“We want to make sure they see themselves in the future, not just today,” Bottoms said. “If they want to do anything, they have to have a goal and a plan.”

True2U has a budget of about $400,000, which includes $250,000 from the Cleveland Foundation and slightly less than $100,000 from the state’s Community Connectors mentoring initiative.

The Neighborhood Leadership Institute is in charge of recruiting the mentors. For more information, call 216-812-8700.