Education At-Risk

The role of a youth mentor, an opportunity to greatly influence a child’s future, creates a magnificent relationship that demands the utmost respect. At risk children are kids that grow up with less opportunity than average or have faced hardships that have negatively affected their education. These kids thrive on the necessary support and care of mentors to help them achieve success. As an educated individual, I understand the importance of knowledge. My mission, by entering the Western Washington University’s Compass 2 Campus program, is to affect positive change and inspire long-term academic success in the students life’s.

Everyone has the power to greatly impact the future of an individual’s life. A deep relationship is created between a student and a mentor. It is necessary when developing these relationships to allow the students to get to know you. Mentors must show the student that they are important and that they care. Supporting tactics to convey such behavior include eye contact, active listening, and positive attitudes. Other helpful behaviors for mentoring include showing interest in the student’s lives, advocating for the student, never giving up, and acting friendly. In the classroom, the student looks up to the mentor. By utilizing this admiration, mentors can create a positive relationship and environment that some students might not have ever experienced.

Education advocate Cyndie Shepard started the Compass 2 Campus program in 2009. It was based on the successful “Phuture Phoenix” program at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Compass 2 Campus is Washington State and WWU’s pilot program to develop a pipeline to higher education, an attempt to provide role models that bridge the educational gaps in our current system. Mrs. Shepard explained the needs associated with at-risk students and the opportunities available in her recent journal article “Will I be able to come to college?” (see pg. 17). Studies have shown that youth mentors provide a great benefit to minority and at-risk children, improving the overall educational climate. The majority of the opportunity for WWU students takes place in Phase III of the program, where the mentors enter the classroom and apply the skills learned throughout training.


The underlying drive of Compass 2 Campus is to change the odds for the children by interacting in the classroom at a young age. Susan Neuman, Professor of Education from the University of Michigan, explains the importance of early development timing in youth mentor programs in her article “Changing the Odds”. Without the necessary oversight and expectations outlined from the beginning, the student will have a much harder time succeeding. Another important component of the “intervention” process is accountability. By bringing Compass 2 Campus to classrooms early in student’s careers, and adding a level of accountability to the program, Neuman believes that this optimal environment will allow for the necessary re-educating to take place. As a mentor, I can forever alter the student’s mindset positively toward future learning.

A deep introspective analysis is what ultimately spurs societal change and growth. The Compass 2 Campus program fosters an environment of analysis towards disproving social myths. It is necessary for mentors to foster a safe learning environment that brake’s the culture of poverty, including any trend of bullying in the schools. It is extremely important that the mentors help the students learn to reject the deficit theory, or a negative way of thinking. Many scholars agree that the keys to societal (academic) change are found in educating ourselves about classism and rejecting the deficit theory in classrooms, the Compass 2 Campus program allows mentors to do so.

As we enter the schools for the first time, and start to impact others lives, I will apply the skills learned in lecture and research to encourage the positive behavior necessary for the students to succeed. Through my experiences, I can inspire long-term academic success in the individual’s life.


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