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True2U kicks off year of mentoring, planning futures (Photo Gallery)






For some CMSD students, this week was about more than a trip to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. It was about getting a good start on the rest of their lives.

The zoo offered a scenic backdrop for kicking off a year in True2U, a mentoring program that serves all of the District’s eighth-graders. The students have been taking turns visiting the zoo over the course of three days, ending Friday.

True2U’s volunteer mentors help eighth-graders identify their strengths and begin charting their futures. That includes choosing the CMSD high school that best fits their needs.

(True2U still needs mentors for this year. To learn more about True2U or to volunteer, go to

Dee-1, a middle school math teacher turned inspirational rap artist, opened each rotation with an engaging mix of humor and wisdom. He stressed the importance of making smart decisions, choosing a career based on your passion, living up to your potential and, in this case, using the critical year ahead to get all of that going.

“Don’t keep hitting snooze on your alarm clock,” he told an audience listening attentively in the Stillwater Place building. “Some people are going to hit snooze until it’s too late.”

The second half of the three-hour stay took the kids to an amphitheater where Metroparks personnel displayed wildlife and compared each animal’s traits to those required for jobs in conservation education, marketing, security and other zoo careers.

Frances Perkins, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade science at Nathan Hale PreK-8 School, said the mentoring helps her students “look deeply into themselves.” She has seen students mature during the course of the year.

“They know where they’re going when they leave my class,” she said. “And they do really understand they have to be ‘true to you.’ ”

Mentors meet with small groups of students for two hours each month. Azzam, a Nathan Hale eighth-grader, is confident the program will sharpen his ability to make good choices, including where he attends high school.

“I’m expecting to get a better education and learn a lot of things I didn’t know before,” he said.

True2U is entering its fifth year, with students who were on the front edge of a phase-in set to graduate from high school in June.

The program has evolved into a rite of passage at PreK- and K-8 schools, said Audrey Davis, CMSD True2U program manager. She said that last year, in some buildings, every eighth-grader exercised the right the District gives students to select which high school they attend.

Eighth-graders will meet with their mentors for the first time on Oct. 17 and then get together again monthly on a designated Thursday.

The students will complete assessments to determine their strengths and interests. They also will take trips to a business and a college campus, attend a year-ending celebration and learn about summer programs in robotics, the arts and other interests.

True2U is a partnership between the Cleveland Foundation, Neighborhood Leadership Institute, Greater Cleveland Partnership, Greater Cleveland Faith-Based Initiative and CMSD.

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