DENVER – The Denver Public Schools (DPS) is looking to expand its Career Development Coach Mentoring program throughout the district this year.
Last year, McAuliffe Manual Middle School welcomed four mentors to help guide 7th graders.
“Our data has shown that students who participate in our program are more likely to graduate. So this is a very important program to us,” said Olive Barraza Kee, DPS senior manager of the Early Career Exploration Team.
Barraza Kee said right now, 250 students have mentors, but the district is hoping to expand that number to 300.
“Our current challenge is finding mentors to participate in our program. We do a one-to-one match for our students,” Barraza Kee said. “We are looking to serve our Spanish-speaking students, as well of our students of color. So, we have a lot of affinity cohorts in our mentoring program that serve either young women of color, young men of color, women in STEAM. So in all of those areas we are seeking support from our mentors.”
Barraza Kee said the application takes one minute to fill out, then someone from DPS will schedule an interview to see if the candidate is a good fit for the program.
“The curriculum is already in place. So it is around developing your career identity, exploring post-secondary options. And we do take two field trips throughout the year — one to a business partner in the community,” Barraza Kee said. “I was a mentor myself in this program for two years. And I found it to be very meaningful, and not only that but fun. Spending time with young people is always such a joy.”
Former mentor Michael Reed said he still stays in contact with some of his mentees.
“When I’m out and about, and I’m in Walmart, and I’m in, you know, out in Central Park, I see them out in the community often. They say, ‘Hey, coach.’ So, I get that little bit of a joy seeing that they’re doing well still, and they still lean on me every so often,” Reed said.
Reed knows the importance of receiving guidance from non-family members.
“I’m a product of single parent home,” Reed said. “It was really important to have men step up in my life, who weren’t my uncles or brothers per se. But they showed that vested interest in my future, my success, and were willing to share their lived experience with me.
Reed said it’s not a huge time commitment but requires about 2 1/2 hours a month.
“I will say 90% of people have two or three hours. They spend it on the internet generally. Right? But if you want to do something and really make a change and make a difference in somebody’s life, take a couple of those hours and give back.”
Applications are due by August 31.
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