Walking with students through post secondary school!
Working in foster care taught me a few terms; Age Out being the one that has stuck with me throughout the years. In Michigan, most students age out of the foster care system at age 18 and are left to tackle the world, and all its difficult decisions, alone. There are very minimal programs that help develop these now budding adults in their decision making and life management skills–resulting in young adults having to experience life-altering transitions alone.
Fourteen years of age, or 8th grade is when students age out of Affinity. While walking with students from kindergarten to 8th grade is critical for identity and SEL development–another level of life and decision making happens from 9th grade and beyond. Affinity has MASTERED mentoring at the K-8 levels. We are able to see great gains in academic achievement, SEL development, and identity development with each of our students. 76% of our students report being able to make informed decisions, 80% report feeling trust within their mentor relationships, and 86% are improving in academics and attendance. While these are all great indicators of growth there is still more work to do. In 9th grade students are forced to make split second decisions that impact their entire life: career choices, post secondary options, financial planning, and scheduling. This is interesting considering that our frontal lobe, or decision making arena, isn’t fully developed until the age of 26. Students are making lifelong decisions during critical periods of neuro-development–mentors are necessary here.
Affinity is working to continue mentoring for both high school and post secondary students. We are working with West Michigan Work’s Ascend Program to become a hiring site for ages 14-24 (in Michigan, one can pursue their high school degree until they are 24 years of age) and with Davenport University’s Casa Latina Program to promote secondary education to our students.
While conversations with both programs are still budding, plans are in the works, and these two partnerships allow for both legacy and lasting relationships with students and mentors. I cannot wait to share more!
Let’s imagine, together, the future stories told from an Affinity Student who was matched with a mentor in kindergarten, is now graduating college, and their mentor is right beside them. Imagine the comfort, pride, and sense of support that student feels. I recently had a conversation with a mentor who has been matched with a third grader. With tears in her eyes, she explained how she cannot wait to be with that student when they graduate middle school. Imagine the tears, excitement, joy, fulfillment present when she is able to see that student graduate from college! With Ascend we are able to walk with youths during that critical time of brain development and decision making by providing mentorship on a professional level. With Casa Latina we are able to provide post secondary education options and resources for first generation college students and ELL students as their program offers bi-lingual education.
I am excited about the opportunity to envision and implement a program that demands legacy and lasting impact on the lives of students right here in our community. I am even more grateful for partners, like you, who come alongside Affinity to run with the vision! Together, let’s continue to make a difference!
Sharalle Ankrah–your E.D.!