Westreich Scholarship

WAWS Spotlight: Ulises Izucar!

An image of Ulises at the 2018 WAWS Scholarship Award Ceremony.

An image of Ulises at the 2018 WAWS Scholarship Award Ceremony.

Ulises was born in Jonacatepec, Mexico. He is a first generation college student attending Point Loma Nazarene University and is studying Graphic Design. In his free time, he likes helping out at Rollin' From The Heart. Ulises is an artist and will be debuting his work at the Words Alive Art & Literacy Event on June 5th from 6-8pm at the San Diego Art Institute. Join us in this celebration of magical things that can happen when we use books to inspire the artist in all of us!

The Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program awards scholarships to participants in the Words Alive Adolescent Book Group to support them in their pursuit of higher education at the college or vocational level. Unlike other scholarship programs, which typically fund only tuition, books and educational supplies, each recipient is eligible to receive funds to cover the cost of rent, food, childcare, clothing, travel and other living expenses. Additionally, the program matches each recipient with a mentor. Student and mentor meet regularly throughout the school year, and the mentors provide guidance, direction, and often, a shoulder to lean on.

Let’s hear more from Ulises!

Name: Ulises Izucar

Age: 19

College: Point Loma Nazarene University

Degree (with area of study): Graphic Design

High School: Monarch

Mentor: Jess Fryman

How did you first get involved with Words Alive?

I was in a the Adolescent Book Group at Monarch School.

How has your experience with Words Alive affected you?

Words Alive was one of the things that helped me get into reading.

What have you accomplished this year that you are most proud of?

Becoming a young life leader, passing macro economics, and making new friends.

What are you currently reading?

Further Along the Road Less Traveled.



WAWS Spotlight: Lexi Martinez!

An image of Lexi (left) with our Teen Services Program Manager Jessica Fryman at the 2018 WAWS Scholarship Award Ceremony.

An image of Lexi (left) with our Teen Services Program Manager Jessica Fryman at the 2018 WAWS Scholarship Award Ceremony.

"My experience with Words Alive has always been extremely positive. My love for reading has been restored since I have been involved with them and I've always found a support system within the organization." -- Lexi Martinez, Words Alive Westreich Scholar

The Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program awards scholarships to participants in the Words Alive Adolescent Book Group to support them in their pursuit of higher education at the college or vocational level. Unlike other scholarship programs, which typically fund only tuition, books and educational supplies, each recipient is eligible to receive funds to cover the cost of rent, food, childcare, clothing, travel and other living expenses. Additionally, the program matches each recipient with a mentor. Student and mentor meet regularly throughout the school year, and the mentors provide guidance, direction, and often, a shoulder to lean on.

Let’s hear more from one of our scholars: Lexi!

Name: Zaira "Lexi" Martinez

Age: 23

College: San Diego State University

Degree (with area of study): Social Work

Mentor: Sarah Beauchemin

How did you first get involved with Words Alive?

I first got involved in Words Alive when I became a student at Monarch. Reading has always been an escape for me and after my family and I were left without a stable home when my mom divorced her abusive husband, Words Alive provided an escape for me. I loved all the books we read, the discussions, and finding out which book we were going to read next. Once again, books became an escape for me and I loved being a part of a community of open and like minded individuals. 

How has your experience with Words Alive affected you?

Looking back and reflecting on where I am, Words Alive has positively affected my academic career in many ways. In high school there was a time where I did not see myself going to college or making improvements to my life but the volunteers always pushed me to do my best. The books we read were stories about resilience and overcoming obstacles made by others and ourselves. They were stories that were so relatable to my own life and it made gave me the strength to discover a better life for myself. I always felt like I belonged and someone knew how to empathize with what I had been through. After I received my scholarship, I was so motivated to do better because I knew someone believed in me and I did not want to disappoint. All of the workshops that we have done have taught me life skills and my meetings with my mentor are outings that I anticipate so I can tell Sarah all of my plans and exciting news that happened that month. I am so proud of the person that I have become with the help of my Words Alive family. 

What have you accomplished this year that you are most proud of?

This year I have accomplished, with the help from Sarah, a more organized academic schedule which includes writing more in my planner, forming professional relationships with my professors, living a healthier lifestyle, and working on self-care. We made this plan in the beginning of the semester and I feel like a better person. I no longer stress too much from my heavy course-load because of how evenly distributed it is. I also have much more time to dedicate to myself and my family. 

What is your favorite college memory so far?

My favorite college memory is transferring from San Diego City College to San Diego State University. Until a few years, higher education was not even on my radar but now I am in my dream program enjoying all the possibilities laid out in front of me and it is overwhelming in the best way. I can't even imagine where I would be had I not come to Monarch and been a part of Words Alive. 

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. I watched one episode of the show and I was so enthralled by it that I wanted to read the book first. 


Learn more about the WAWS program here and donate today to help us keep this scholarship going!

 

WAWS Evaluation Finding #8: "I believe in my future."

A group photo of our scholars at the 2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony.

A group photo of our scholars at the 2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony.

To continually provide meaningful and evaluation-driven programming, Words Alive commenced on a seven-month Dialogues in Action (DIA) project to analyze the impact of our Words Alive Westreich Scholarship (WAWS) program using a blended qualitative and quantitative evaluation model. Through this process, we had an opportunity to view our program through the lens of the scholarship recipients, past and present, and their mentors to determine opportunities to enhance our program delivery.

Throughout this process, we identified eight findings and then brainstormed ways we could update and improve the program based on these findings. Here is the eighth and final finding!

"I believe in my future."

All scholars in the program are graduates of Juvenile Court & Community Schools, which serves a student body experiencing extraordinary challenges such as juvenile delinquency, homelessness, community violence and/or teen parenting. Because of this, they are often focused on the present, getting through day-by-day and making sure their basic, immediate needs are met. Through our interviews with participants and mentors, we found that many of the scholars made clear connections between participating in the program and a discovered or renewed focus on their future. In fact, 92% of the students said they now feel more hopeful about their education and future.

Due to the extraordinary circumstances these students come from, scholars often felt as if they were not in control of their own lives but were instead trapped by their upbringing and environment. However, we found that after participating in the program, the financial, mentor and professional development aspects of the program have helped scholars believe in themselves, their futures and their abilities — creating a sense of agency over their personal and academic trajectory. This translates to students taking action toward improving their future.

 After participating in the program,

  • 85% of scholars said they now use coping strategies to address challenges they face

  • 85% of scholars said they now take action steps toward the goals they set

  • 100% of scholars said they the now take advantage of academic, professional and community resources

Mentors recognize this growth too:

“I think she sees each of these accomplishments as milestones – and they are. It supports her sense of self-worth, value and confidence. For some people, it’s easy, but for her it has been incredibly challenging. Every single milestone increases her confidence. And she’s facing this hurdle now but she’s not going to give up.”

Two scholars mentioned they actively plan ahead in terms of applying for additional scholarships, saying, “I’m saving scholarships for further down the line” or “I’ve been going over my statements more. I figure out when different scholarships are coming in and when the deadlines to apply are.”

“I had never saved money before and the scholarship program taught me how to…I’m planning on buying a house. Not anytime soon but hopefully in 10 years or so,” another scholar said. “I have the skills to save money now and the motivation to buy a house.” – Scholar, age 24

This same scholar, when asked about how she dealt with challenges, such as persistent mental health issues, throughout her college career said, “I realize I have to focus on my future. The depression and PTSD were because of my past experiences. I learned that I could change things now, so I won’t be in the same situation later on. I need to believe in my future.”

Significance

At Words Alive, we want participants in all of our programs to become advocates for themselves and their future, especially so in the WAWS program. This finding indicates that through program participation, scholars are learning to proactively contribute to their own personal development by creating long-term goals and that they’re making steps towards meeting them. This is not only significant to the individual student but to the larger community. By becoming individuals who are no longer just getting by day-by-day, they are prepared to contribute to local economies, culture, politics, and to help their communities thrive.

Learn more about the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship here!


WAWS Evaluation Finding #7: The Mentee Becomes the Mentor

An image of three of our scholars, Zaphire, Domminiece, and Lexi, standing together at the 2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony.

An image of three of our scholars, Zaphire, Domminiece, and Lexi, standing together at the 2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony.

To continually provide meaningful and evaluation-driven programming, Words Alive commenced on a seven-month Dialogues in Action (DIA) project to analyze the impact of our Words Alive Westreich Scholarship (WAWS) program using a blended qualitative and quantitative evaluation model. Through this process, we had an opportunity to view our program through the lens of the scholarship recipients, past and present, and their mentors to determine opportunities to enhance our program delivery.

Throughout this process, we identified eight findings and then brainstormed ways we could update and improve the program based on these findings. Here is the seventh finding!

The Mentee Becomes the Mentor

We were surprised to find that through participating in the program and developing a relationship with their mentors, our scholars in turn became mentors for their peers.

When asked what they were passionate about, six out of nine of the scholars interviewed said “helping people.” Many of the scholars are pursuing careers such as social work, therapy, and child development with the ultimate goal of helping youth that have similar stories to their own.

In addition, many of the scholars spoke directly about becoming mentors for their peers. One scholar said:

“Now, I pass on the advice my mentors have given me to other people. I’m a mentor for some of the students at Lindsay because I’ve been in their shoes. It’s good to share your experience because they can see a role model and can relate to you. It gives them faith that things will work out… I just try to be a helping person and when someone’s experiencing a lot of emotions I try to be a calming presence like the calming presence my mentors have been for me. I’ve learned to ask for help and people still ask me for help.” – Scholar, age 22

It's clear from this example and others that being a mentor wasn’t necessarily an innate skill the scholars possessed, but something they learned through their relationship with their WAWS mentor. This statement from one of our scholars illustrates the range of skills these students learned from their mentors:

“I valued [my mentor’s] honesty. She would be upfront but in a professional way. I learned how to be that way with other people. ‘Let’s go grab coffee’ is not something I had done before but now do with other people.” – Scholar, age 24

Significance

One of our intended impacts for this program is that scholars form healthy and meaningful relationships with their peers and adults. Because of their upbringing, many of our scholars lack healthy adult relationships in their lives. To see the students develop relationship-building skills and then become a mentoring force in their community is significant because it proves that the scholars can learn the basic tenets of a healthy relationship and give and take in positive ways in those relationships.

Learn more about the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship here!


Finding Your Passion in College

By Grace Larsen, Guest Blogger

Image of a person standing in the middle of a library aisle, looking at a book that they are holding open.

Image of a person standing in the middle of a library aisle, looking at a book that they are holding open.

College can be daunting for many students as there is a lot of pressure to be “career ready.” Words Alive previously explored what exactly that term means, and it entails having the tools to obtain a job after graduation as well as being prepared to pursue apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Of course, all that is easier said than done. In order to be career ready, one must have a clear picture of the future they want to begin with. 

Therein lies the problem: for many of us, knowing what we want to do before stepping into college is far from easy. In fact, according to figures by the National Center for Education Statistics, about 80% of college students change majors at least once. Another study found that students who started out in mathematics and natural sciences are more likely than others to make a switch. Each student has their own personal reasons for changing majors, but a common denominator is that they realized a little too late that their interests lie elsewhere.

All in all, switching majors has its pros and cons. One advantage is that you’ll be more satisfied knowing that you pushed through with exploring the path you really want. Changing majors also widens your knowledge of other areas of study because of the fact that you’ve taken classes in more than one department. However, the biggest con is that your college expenses can very easily rack up. Another is that you won’t be able to graduate on time, and will be spending more time in school instead of embarking on your career. 

This is why guidance counselors and teachers grill high school students about “finding their passion” so early in life: so that they can pursue their chosen fields and stick with them until graduation. Unfortunately, aiming to discover one's passion is actually the wrong mindset. To better understand why, let's take a look at a study by psychologists from Stanford University and Yale University, which points to two different theories. The “fixed theory of interests” is the idea that core interests are there from birth and are just waiting to be discovered. Meanwhile, the “growth theory” posits that interests are something that a person cultivates over time. 

These psychologists explain that students with the first mindset may waste their time skipping opportunities and foregoing lessons that aren’t aligned with their previously stated passions. Also, if a person is told that their interests are ingrained, they may easily give up on learning certain topics because of the belief that these don’t align with their predetermined interests.

Therefore, high school students shouldn’t start college applications thinking about finding their passions, but rather, to develop them. With the second mindset centered on growth, one can increase their knowledge in areas outside of pre-existing interests. In contrast to those with a fixed mindset, they would then form connections among new areas and the interests they already have. 


For a start, Maryville University provides some key pieces of advice on how to choose a degree program or area of study. They emphasize the importance of knowing a particular field’s median salary, projected growth, and the percentage of bachelor’s degrees awarded annually. Information like this can help you check whether you see yourself in a particular field years from now. You can then proceed to researching school options as well as other things like costs and location.

Again, it's important not to feel overly pressured to know for certain what you love and will continue to love in the future. It’s healthier to believe that passion is something that you create. This helps you tackle your chosen field with a more determined approach, and shapes how you will learn along the way. College may expose you to a number of challenges and obstacles, but a growth mindset can keep you focused on building your passion.

Learn more about our work with college students through the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship program here!

WAWS Spotlight: Alicia Osuna

An image of Alicia and her mentor Kerrie standing in front of a sign for Every Brilliant Thing, a play that they went to see together.

An image of Alicia and her mentor Kerrie standing in front of a sign for Every Brilliant Thing, a play that they went to see together.

We’d like to introduce you to another one of our incredible scholars! Alicia is in her second year at San Diego City College studying biology. In addition to being a star student she is a star athlete and a member of the San Diego City College Lady Knights basketball team.

The Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program awards scholarships to participants in the Words Alive Adolescent Book Group to support them in their pursuit of higher education at the college or vocational level. Unlike other scholarship programs, which typically fund only tuition, books and educational supplies, each recipient is eligible to receive funds to cover the cost of rent, food, childcare, clothing, travel and other living expenses. Additionally, the program matches each recipient with a mentor. Student and mentor meet regularly throughout the school year, and the mentors provide guidance, direction, and often, a shoulder to lean on.

Let’s hear more from Alicia!

Name: Alicia Osuna

Age: 20

College: San Diego City College

Area of Study: Biology

High School: Monarch School

Mentor: Kerrie Libby

How did you first get involved with Words Alive?

I first involved with Words Alive when I was in high school at Monarch. I was in the Adolescent Book Group.

How has your experience with Words Alive affected you?

It's been great. I love the support I get from my mentor. I enjoy the activities they have for us.

What have you accomplished this year that you are most proud of?

I got good grades in college. I made it through my first year of college and am now working on my second.

Tell us about your favorite college memory.

In my English class, I had to write a paper on this book I was reading and it was honestly the best book book. Another one of my favorite memories was being apart of my basketball team, they are so great.


WAWS Evaluation Finding #6: Becoming Aware of Peer Relationships

An image of our scholarship students and mentors at a volunteer day at Kitchens for Good.

An image of our scholarship students and mentors at a volunteer day at Kitchens for Good.

To continually provide meaningful and evaluation-driven programming, Words Alive commenced on a seven-month Dialogues in Action (DIA) project to analyze the impact of our Words Alive Westreich Scholarship (WAWS) program using a blended qualitative and quantitative evaluation model. Through this process, we had an opportunity to view our program through the lens of the scholarship recipients, past and present, and their mentors to determine opportunities to enhance our program delivery.

Throughout this process, we identified eight findings and then brainstormed ways we could update and improve the program based on these findings. Here is the sixth finding!

Better Together: Becoming Aware of Peer Relationships

The WAWS program also provides opportunities for scholars to participate in group activities in order to make deeper connections within their cohort and experience new things in the community. These activities, beyond the mandated workshop participation, include volunteerism, meal-sharing, outings to sporting events or performing arts shows and an extension of the Adolescent Book Group designed specifically for them.  

As scholars begin to experience new environments, they find that their personal backgrounds can be dramatically different from many of their peers, making a sense of “belonging” and connection with others difficult. However, by spending time with one another during designed activities in the program, scholars got to know each other better, and in time, relate. Many of the students participating in the program recognized an elevated awareness of the peer relationships within the group – other young people who have shared experiences and whose camaraderie can provide a sense of safety and mutual well-being.  

“I didn’t realize before, how many kids were in situations similar to me,” said one current participant. Finding common ground with her program peers helped her reach out at school: “I found a society oriented towards youth in foster care, homeless, orphaned or in other difficult situations or for kids whose parents weren’t emotionally available. I became involved in the society and got another scholarship through them,” she continued. - Scholar, age 24 

In addition to developing like-minded peer relationships within the WAWS group, and then feeling confident to seek out those relationships and support systems beyond the group, the students also expressed an increased level of “community engagement” – a new level of ease with networking, finding resources, giving back and being a resource for each other.  

“I like to talk with my classmates and have little conversations. Through small talk I found out that one of my classmate’s boyfriend was mistreating her. I encouraged her by sharing my past and my experience with domestic violence. I suggested she go to a therapist and even suggested I could go with her if she [needed the] support.” – Scholar, age 22 

Significance 

No one wants to feel alone, that their experiences, especially traumatic, are isolated, or that no one else understands their path. That the WAWS program is designed to meet the needs of students and young people sharing very particular and specific backgrounds is unique, and one that the students clearly have been able to capitalize. Additionally, as the young people who participate in the program progress, they have found it not only helpful to their peers, but also beneficial to themselves, to be able to recognize the value of these peer relationships and both use them to seek assistance and provide leadership when appropriate. 

Learn more about the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship here!


WAWS Evaluation Finding #5: "I feel like a better person. I feel so free."

An image of our WAWS scholar Paulina (right) hugging her friend, who presented Paulina’s reward at the 2018 WAWS Award Ceremony.

An image of our WAWS scholar Paulina (right) hugging her friend, who presented Paulina’s reward at the 2018 WAWS Award Ceremony.

To continually provide meaningful and evaluation-driven programming, Words Alive commenced on a seven-month Dialogues in Action (DIA) project to analyze the impact of our Words Alive Westreich Scholarship (WAWS) program using a blended qualitative and quantitative evaluation model. Through this process, we had an opportunity to view our program through the lens of the scholarship recipients, past and present, and their mentors to determine opportunities to enhance our program delivery.

Throughout this process, we identified eight findings and then brainstormed ways we could update and improve the program based on these findings. Here is the fifth finding!

“I feel like a better person. I feel so free.” 

While the intended impacts of the program included relationship-building with others, one surprising result discovered during this study was participants’ changing relationship with themselves.

Through their scholarship application essays and interviews for this study, most, if not all, of the students discussed the trauma in their lives. It’s no secret that an unstable childhood can contribute to unhealthy personal relationships in adulthood. Many of the students revealed abusive romantic partners, the inability to enforce boundaries with their family members and feelings of isolation from peers who couldn’t relate.

However, through a consistent relationship with their mentor as described in Finding #3 and the support of their WAWS cohort as described in Finding #6, students developed and employed healthy relationship skills with others. According to this study, 85% of scholars surveyed said they felt more confident in putting healthy relationship skills into action. For one scholar, healthy relationship skills meant establishing and exercising new boundaries: “I’ve learned to say no to certain people.”

This new-found confidence coupled with realizing the value of healthy relationships, networking, community engagement and mentorship led to many students and their mentors saying that the students simply found themselves much more open to communication after participating in the program.

One mentor described this growth in her mentee as: “She does a good job at assessing people and choosing to be with people who are good examples. She has become very open with me.”

Perhaps even more impactful, however, was the growth scholars recognized within themselves. Many students initially felt trapped by the labels placed on them by society: at-risk, homeless, teen parent, juvenile delinquent. Before their participation in the program, many said they never thought they could go to college. In survey responses, they described themselves as “troubled, scared, lazy, unmotivated, unprepared and unfocused” before participating in the program.

But after at least a year in the program, they became scholars – describing themselves instead with more positive terms such as “responsible, confident, passionate, ready and focused.”


In-line with these terms alluding to a new sense of agency, scholars described taking action:

“I believe that I’m smart enough to accomplish my goals. I believe I’m capable of taking actions to make changes, that I can identify those actions, and make the changes. Most importantly, I believe in myself, that I’m the only person who can do this. I’ve learned to identify what the challenges are and be specific as you can be to make that challenge a goal, to make it a positive.” – Scholar, age 25

“I take action, go out and get the things that are beneficial for me instead of waiting for them to come to me.” – Scholar, age 26

For many program participants, that shift stems from the support of their mentor and Words Alive staff. In interviews with scholars, they said that having someone cheer them on made them not want to give up, helped them realize they could rise above their circumstances and see themselves as more capable.

One scholar said:

“I’ve grown so much. I appreciate hearing the uplifting things [my mentor and Words Alive staff] say. It helps me remember my accomplishments and not just my struggles. I feel like a better person; I feel so free.” – Scholar, age 26

Another scholar shared:

“I’ve learned self-care, self-love and self-respect...with self-love, especially when you have so many obstacles, helps everything else.  Before I didn’t know any better. I’m pushing myself to ask questions and see how much I’ve accomplished. I’m reclaiming my identity as a teen mom, as undocumented. Before, I didn’t love myself, I just saw the labels society threw at me, like screw-up, outlaw, rebel and minority. I didn’t like waking up to that.” – Scholar, age 25

With a redefined, positive perspective of themselves and skills honed to address their circumstances, 100% of students surveyed said the program helped them feel at least moderately more in control of their choices.

To love oneself – to truly feel confident both in and out of one’s skin – is important if one is to break free from the trappings of harmful and limiting environments. That the program scholars develop that confidence in such dramatic ways is remarkable.

 “I’m more positive about everything and learned to appreciate myself more. I wish I had a friend like me.” – Scholar, age 26

Significance

Focused on the expectations and labels placed on them by society, students often say they never imagined they would graduate high school let alone go to college. But as students are repeatedly and genuinely told, “you can do it,” our findings indicate they begin to believe it. This confidence translates to several other attributes, such as motivation and resilience, that help drive scholars’ success.

Equally, one’s desire to cultivate new relationships, create a personal goal of helping others, and confidently navigate the world fosters new opportunities. Being able to identify and develop in these two areas and recognize their importance will provide lasting positive impact.

It's National Mentoring Month!

By Jennifer Van Pelt

Our WAWS student Antonise (left) and her mentor Brittany volunteered together for the local humane society.

Our WAWS student Antonise (left) and her mentor Brittany volunteered together for the local humane society.

January is National Mentoring Month, a campaign that celebrates mentoring and the positive effect it has on young lives. The month includes a variety of celebrations including, “I am a Mentor Day”, “International Mentoring Day”, “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service”, “National Mentoring Summit Day”, and “#ThankYourMentor Day”. These celebrations are focused on reflecting on the benefits both the mentors and mentees receive in the relationship as well as to share powerful stories about volunteerism. Mentoring.org outlines the three goals of the month-long campaign:

  • Raise awareness of mentoring in its various forms.

  • Recruit individuals to mentor, especially in programs that have waiting lists of young people.

  • Promote the rapid growth of mentoring by recruiting organizations to engage their constituents in mentoring.

Celebrating its 17th year, the campaign has gained support from Barack Obama, Maya Angelou, Harvard, and the NBA, among others.

Benefits of Mentorship

A mentor is more than a support system or a professional counterpart. According to mentorship.com, the following are a few benefits of students having a mentor:

  • Young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor.

  • In addition to better school attendance and a better chance of going on to higher education, mentored youth maintain better attitudes toward school.

  • Students who meet regularly with their mentors are less likely than their peers to skip school.

  • Young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are: 81% more likely to participate regularly in sports or extracurricular activities than those who do not.

Words Alive Mentorship

Words Alive analyzed results from the mentorships in our Westreich Scholarship program and found that there was a large benefit when mentors and mentees met consistently. Many mentors mentioned that in the beginning of the program they would be stood up on multiple occasions or meetings would be cancelled without explanation. It was up to these mentors set and communicate expectations. For many of our scholars, consistency was not prioritized in their previous relationships, and their Words Alive mentors helped them see the value and importance of honoring their commitments.

We have many more success stories from the WAWS program that we are proud to share. At a recent meetup, our WAWS mentors talked about the successes they’ve had with their scholars. Successes included “Scholar is forming a study group”, “Scholar’s professor praised him on his critical thinking skills” and “developed a budget”. Successes like these show the amount of trust and support that the mentor relationship requires. Another success story involves Antonise Stewart, a veterinary student, who met with her mentor to donate their time towards creating kitten toys and scratching posts for the local humane society. By volunteering together, they are bonding over a shared passion and activity that makes both feel good about how they spent their time.

If you would like to learn more about the WAWS program, click here.

Sources:

http://www.mentoring.org/why-mentoring/mentoring-impact/


WAWS Evaluation Finding #3: Consistent Mentoring Inspires Consistent Students

To continually provide meaningful and evaluation-driven programming, Words Alive commenced on a seven-month Dialogues in Action (DIA) project to analyze the impact of our Words Alive Westreich Scholarship (WAWS) program using a blended qualitative and quantitative evaluation model. Through this process, we had an opportunity to view our program through the lens of the scholarship recipients, past and present, and their mentors to determine opportunities to enhance our program delivery.

Throughout this process, we identified eight findings and then brainstormed ways we could update and improve the program based on these findings. Here is the third finding!

An image of Jessica Fryman, Teen Services Program Manager, standing with mentor-mentee pair Alison and Paulina at the 2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony.

An image of Jessica Fryman, Teen Services Program Manager, standing with mentor-mentee pair Alison and Paulina at the 2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony.

Consistent Mentoring Inspires Consistent Students

Historically, the first-year scholarship students don’t answer emails, show up late, if at all, miss important deadlines and struggle to follow up when they say they will. Few offer excuses or apologies because before they entered the program, they were not accustomed to being asked for an explanation.

Interviews with scholars, all graduates of alternative high schools, revealed that they were unprepared for what would be expected of them in college and “the real world.” But through the norms and expectations of the WAWS program, scholars start to realize what is expected of them in the program, in school, future jobs and in healthy adult relationships.

About communicating violated expectations, one mentor said:

“I tried to be direct and honest. When my [first-year mentee] stood me up once or twice, I wrote her a letter and sent it to her home, telling her my expectations and how she had let me down. I hope she has a better idea that you have to show up and that commitments mean something.”

Scholars who met with their mentor consistently, on the other hand, demonstrated how that consistency became part of how they operated. This was especially true for scholars who had multi-year experiences in the program.

One such scholar, who now works as a financial advisor and manages a small group of employees, attributed her leadership skills to her mentor’s consistency:

“[My mentor] would visit me at school. We kept in contact and would catch up often, we would go hiking or meet up to eat. She was a really good friend,” the scholar said. “[She] taught me what it meant to be consistent.” – Scholar, age 18

Another scholar went on to say: “[My mentor] keeps me on track and helps me think of how to tackle things – usually along the lines of ‘stay on top of that until it’s done’, listing actions she’s taken as a result: consistently visiting professors during office hours to ask for grade progress or get help and following up by phone if an email goes unanswered. I’m adulting way better because of these skills.” – Scholar, age 26

When consistency in relationships becomes a habit, it bleeds into other aspects of life. Our research shows scholars with consistent mentorship also study regularly, turn in assignments on time and pay their bills when they are due.

One hundred percent of the scholars surveyed said they now take advantage of academic, professional and community resources at their disposal. Again, students who met with their mentor more frequently reported better follow through and higher competencies in several skill sets as demonstrated in the graph below.

A graph titled “Comparison of students’ self-reported growth in competencies based on frequency of mentor meetings”

A graph titled “Comparison of students’ self-reported growth in competencies based on frequency of mentor meetings”

Significance

The lives of most scholars up to the point of participating in the program have been anything but consistent. Their parents have been in and out of jail, in and out of drug rehab centers – and essentially, in and out of their lives. At times, the scholars have been unsure where they will sleep on any given night or when they will eat their next meal. Surviving one day to the next is all they know.

But when an engaged Words Alive mentor enters the picture, it gives the scholar new context for what it means to be reliable, to be professional, to be a successful adult. Like all skills – consistency is a learned behavior. Mentors who consistently interact with the scholars keep them accountable to the requirements of their schools, the scholarship program and their goals.

Learn more about the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship program here!