More Blue Ribbon mentors needed

Apr. 19, 2014 @ 10:41 AM

The Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate program is seeking more mentors to serve as positive adult influences and help area children achieve their full potential.
“When you become a mentor, not only do you affect the life of the child you mentor, but you also affect the lives of the children that are not even born,” said Granvel Johnson, new match support specialist for the Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate program.
“Your legacy of being a mentor has the potential to go on further,” Johnson said. “I don’t think people realize the impact of being a caring, loving adult friend.”
Chris Paul is a mentor in the BRMA program. After leaving the U.S. Peace Corps in Mauritania, Paul was looking for ways to continue the service he had been accustomed to.
“AJ and I were paired when he was in fourth grade and have worked and grown together for four years,” he said. “AJ and I have talked about school from time to time, but just as often we are hiking, cooking or doing science experiments together. We even do service projects together for others, such as community art projects and environmental clean-up.”
Unlike many mentor program, Blue Ribbon mentors do not focus on academics, said Johnson. Instead, “the primary focus is to be an adult friend to the children, to expose them to various culture and social activities and talk about life in general.”
“We start with students in the fourth grade and there’s no academic focus the first two years,” he said. “The focus is on building a relationship.”
Part of that relationship building is making sure that the adults and students are properly matched.
Paul said that part of what makes BRMA so successful “and so rewarding to participate in is that it carefully matches the interests, personalities, and aptitudes of students and mentors.
“This allows for rich relationships to be built, however this also means that the program needs a wide variety of new mentors every year to match with the deserving and promising students,” he said.
BRMA is a Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district-wide support program designed to help African-American and Latino students achieve more by promoting success in multiple developmental realms. It began in 1995 and supports students through mentoring, advocacy, tutoring, social and cultural enrichment, leadership development and college and career preparation.
According to its website, over the years BRMA has been recognized nationally for excellence in mentoring and school-community partnerships.
“BRMA is an incredible program to be a part of, because while the mentor is a key part, the students receive extensive, holistic support towards a lifetime of success,” Paul said. “I really appreciate that I am not the only one hoping and working for success in my mentee's life.
“Blue Ribbon puts the highest expectations on the students and parents themselves and then teaches the mentor how to support the student within the context of their community, including by collaborating with the parent,” he said.
Johnson explained that there are 120 active mentor-mentee matches in BRMA right now, with 17 boys and nine girls on the waiting list to be matched with mentors.
Students remain on the waiting list for two cycles before they drop off. Because of this, the list changes each semester.
“The only reason we don’t have more kids in the program is because we don’t have more mentors,” said Johnson. “The kids have more confidence. They’re able to relate to adults better. … And they are more likely to attend post-secondary school. Every one of them has said that high school is not enough.”
For information on the Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate program visit https://sites.google.com/a/chccs.k12.nc.us/brma/.