Bradley Achieves, the local branch of tnAchieves, is expected to grow in the next year. As more students take advantage of the program, more adult mentors will be needed to assist in the program.
Graham Thomas of tnAchieves said mentors start working with students in the last semester of their senior year in high school.
“We started (in Bradley County) two years ago with 330 students,” Thomas said.
Last year the program had 360 participants. Thomas expects the Bradley program to reach the 400 mark this year. He said this is the average size of programs across the state.
Mentors spend about an hour a month total communicating with their five assigned students in the program. Jason Sewell of Cleveland State Community College said many of the mentors use texting to communicate because it is convenient for students.
“Our program is only as strong as the community lets it be,” Thomas said.
Sewell helps run the local program and serves as a mentor.
He said his experience has been a positive one.
“Mentors serve a great purpose,” Sewell said.
By having someone encourage them and help them find the resources they need to answer questions, a mentor increases a student’s chance at success, according to Sewell.
“If no one in their family has been in college before, it is almost an overwhelming process,” Sewell said.
About 65 percent of the statewide participants are the first generation in their families to attend college.
“We really don’t have a cookie cutter image for our mentors, just someone who wants to help a student transition to college,” Thomas said.
Mentors serve as both cheerleader and taskmaster, according to Thomas.
As a cheerleader, a mentor encourages a student through the transition into college. As a taskmaster, a mentor reminds students of upcoming deadlines for getting paperwork completed.
“The main purpose of the program is “to make it a smooth transition from high school to college,” Sewell said.
Mentors are required to be 21 years old or older. Background checks are done before a mentor is accepted into the program.
Mentors are required to contact their assigned students at least once every two weeks, attend December training and attend two team meetings.
Each mentor is asked to make a year’s commitment to the program.
Prospective mentors can apply at www.tnachieves.org. The deadline to be a part of the next group of mentors is Nov. 1.