Lizzie Duke, Reporter
College Access Coordinator Sarah McDaniel began a program last year where Pierce College students could mentor low income youth and teach them about college.
“It has been very positive working with Ridgecrest Elementary,” McDaniel said in a Ridgecrest Elementary newsletter. “The kid’s coaches have been having an amazing time meeting with each other and seeing the program grow on both ends is an example of this.”
Pierce students began coaching youth at both Orting High School and Ridgecrest Elementary.
The program has 15 coaches, and McDaniel believes it’s best to have the same people mentor every time to work with the students for the whole year.
McDaniel recruited coaches with posters and promotion. Some volunteers are from American Honors or are Running Start students who need volunteer hours.
“I love those children,” volunteer Jesse Hamelin said. “They just brighten my day (and) every Friday I get to go visit them. I thought it would be a good opportunity to give back and show them that college leads to success.”
In a survey conducted after the first year of mentoring, 81 percent of students said they now have a greater understanding of college.
“They also kind of have that consistent good role model and influence coming into their life,” McDaniel said.
One coach worked with a girl at Ridgecrest Elementary who was going through family issues. The coach went to an awards ceremony, that the girl’s family didn’t attend, to show her support.
Ridgecrest Elementary Principal Adrianna Julian later said in a newsletter, “What our Pierce mentor did not know is the impact she made by showing up at the RAH assembly and what this meant to a student who had been in and out of foster care and in desperate need of positive attention. That day our Ridgecrest student learned that others do care and want nothing but the best for them.”
Mentoring disadvantaged youth isn’t funded by Pierce College, so there’s a high chance it won’t continue next year.
The coaching is part of an AmeriCorps fund that’s given out every three years. There are more than 40 members of AmeriCorps in Washington state in other colleges.
McDaniel was hired by AmeriCorps and is considered a volunteer at Pierce. She was looking into making it a permanent part of Pierce College Puyallup, but said it seems unlikely because, as of now, if the funds stop, the mentors stop going.
McDaniel said if the program does continue, it’ll most likely be at the Fort Steilacoom campus, as they have a representative and programs already existing through AmeriCorps.
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