Reader to Reader shares how its new Ambassador of Mentoring is making strides

Information submitted by Director of Mentoring Programs Dennis Quinn from Reader to Reader. Reader to Reader is a first-time host site for a Highland Street Corps Ambassador of Mentoring, which is an AmeriCorps initiative of Mass Mentoring Partnership.

[caption id="attachment_1355" align="alignright" width="150"]Rebecca Cubells from Reader to Reader Rebecca Cubells from Reader to Reader[/caption]

What is your specific mentoring model? Our Read, Think, Share mentoring model matches middle and high school students with college-age mentors from Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mt. Holyoke College, and the University of Massachusetts to discuss young adult literature in a secure online forum. Our program aligns with the school day and the Common Core to help students develop reading and writing skills, gain confidence, and develop a guiding relationship with a college student. In 2007, when we began the program, e-mentoring was a little known alternative to traditional mentoring – but we see other mentoring organizations discovering the same things we did: the social media environment that is so comfortable for young people today is an amazingly effective platform for a mentored academic intervention.

Why were you interested in hosting an Ambassador this year and what does your program hope to get out of it? As a small organization, we are always looking for ways to expand our capacity to serve more students within our budget. The Ambassador of Mentoring opportunity was a perfect fit for our organization. It focused on all the areas where administrative support is so important – recruiting, training, matching, and match evaluation.  These are time-intensive elements of any mentoring program, and our Ambassador, Rebecca Cubells, has already helped us grow into new schools and provide more mentoring.

What is the project scope for your Ambassador? Is this a new or existing project? How did you determine this would be an appropriate and achievable project for her to complete? Rebecca’s project scope starts with recruiting. We need to have the strong, committed group of mentors who are the heart of our program, and Rebecca is instrumental in helping us recruit not only the number of mentors we need, but in helping to increase the diversity of our mentors – particularly by bringing young male mentors into our program. Rebecca also took a strong role in helping to create and implement mentor orientation, and she will be using the Mass Mentoring resources available to Ambassadors to develop follow-on training to expand the set of tools that each mentor brings to their match – like active reading strategies, cultural competency, and English as a Second Language (ESL) skills.In addition, matching and match review are important parts of Rebecca’s scope.  We follow each match to make sure the mentor is committed to the process, is providing excellent modeling and coaching, and has the resources he or she needs to help the student reach new heights of reading achievement.

Last year was our biggest year to date, hiring more than 80 mentors for the academic year.  Seeing the demand for our program and knowing that we would need at least 100 mentors this year, we developed the Ambassador’s scope based on previous experience. We knew that the program had grown beyond the capabilities of one person to manage. Adding an Ambassador immediately brought a skilled, motivated person into our organization – not only to spend a year of service with us, but also to document the ways in which her efforts have expanded our capacity. She is helping to plan and organize the growth of the organization as she works with us.

Have you seen an immediate and/or quantifiable impact from your Ambassador over the last few months? Rebecca’s work has definitely shown us a quantifiable impact already. We have a more diverse pool of mentors thanks to her and she brought in five new male mentors within one month of recruiting – a huge boost for us. She also made it possible for us to interview, screen, and train more mentors than ever before – our number of mentors is more than 25 percent higher this year. By working together, we are able to provide supervision, advice, and resources for all these mentors on a daily basis. Without her service, we would never be mentoring such a large group of students this year.

What advice do you have for programs who are thinking of hosting an Ambassador, or who are hosting an Ambassador for the first time? Organizations hosting an Ambassador for the first time – or planning to – should look carefully at what they need in order to expand capacity, and use that as a guide to recruiting candidates. We saw a lot of talented candidates for our position, but we were lucky to know exactly what we needed thanks to help from Mass Mentoring to make our project scope as specific as possible.

Organizations should also be aware that they do share the time of their Ambassador with other service projects.  Definitely make plans for the time your Ambassador is away at training, service week, and retreats. You will realize very quickly just how much your Ambassador is contributing the moment he or she leaves for a few days!

Any other thoughts you want to provide about the Ambassador of Mentoring program? The Ambassador of Mentoring program is an amazing opportunity for small organizations that are looking to increase their capacity but may not be able to take on the financial strain of a full-time employee. Our Ambassador has already shown us numerous areas where we can increase our impact.