This week, Seattle CARES and some of its partner agencies are launching tutoring sessions for core subject areas for students in its Rising program, a three-year group mentoring program that works with about 45 boys enrolled at Meany and Denny International middle schools.
Tutoring is one of the additional services young people themselves say they need, particularly during the pandemic, according to a recent article in The Seattle Times. In the Road Map Project, a youth-led survey to improve education in South King County, The SeattleTimes reports that students requested tutors, more individualized learning opportunities and more support from adults they trust – all elements of The Rising program.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced Seattle Public Schools to close, Seattle CARES had to move quickly to transition The Rising mentoring program at Denny International and Meany middle schools to online formats.
But the virtual environment posed a new set of challenges for Seattle CARES: How to keep the students engaged. The Rising team reached out to the scholars for ideas.
One idea that sparked interest among both mentors and scholars was to create superhero stories and images.The mentors quickly realized the potential of this creative exercise and decided to make it a centerpiece of the online program.
In the beginning, the mentors worked with the scholars to stimulate creative work. Each scholar was asked to come up with a superhero version of himself; each group worked together to create a narrative.
Through local contacts, Seattle CARES reached out to a group of nationally established comic book artists and writers who volunteered to help the scholars and mentors bring their ideas into shape. There was not enough time to create a complete graphic novel but a series of short stories, one for each group, was definitely doable.
The superhero characters were adapted from movies, cartoons and comics but each scholar introduced his own personal elements. The stories they crafted reflected their concerns – whether it was the COVID-19 pandemic or rising police violence. All these issues were folded into discussions of the stories along with the personal dramas that the mentors and scholars discuss regularly.
Working on the superhero stories provided an outlet to explore tensions. The creative consultants saw how the ideas and thought processes of the scholars made their creations vivid and rich. As the program ended, the scholars were encouraged to introduce as much of themselves as possible into their chosen hero-templates.
“We wanted to stretch their imaginations, to empower them,” said Seattle CARES director Don Cameron. “We wanted to show them that change can happen if they work hard and think positively.”
The students met the challenge with imagination and truthfulness. Their project was made into a PowerPoint presentation that was shared with each groups and the organization at the end of the program.
This groundbreaking model has potential for broader use. Creative group interaction is incredibly useful to engage scholars’ interest in an online mentoring setting. With the guidance of their mentors and consultants, the scholars built something that could resonate well beyond the program’s end.
Greg Banks has been a Seattle CARES mentor since we launched Our Best in 2017. Employed in health care, Banks was one of the first men we recruited into Our Best and one of the first to complete mentor orientation and training.
Banks transitioned to The Rising program two years ago where he mentors a 13-year-old enrolled at Meany Middle School. The young man, who lives with his grandmother in the Central District, has seen more than his share of tragedy. Although his mentee was reluctant to open up at first, Banks persisted and today the two have formed a close friendship.
Along with Banks participation as a mentor, the Seattle CARES team advocated for the family, finding community partners to help pay rent and utility bills. We talked to Banks recently about mentoring.
Why did you become a mentor? I was a troubled youth and there was no one to help me make difficult decisions. My father died when I was 16 years old and I felt so lonely after that.
What do you like most about mentoring? I enjoy building strong relationships with young people. Today’s youth want the same thing I wanted when I was their age: To have someone who is there for them. They want a man who accepts them for who they are. I find it surprising that with all our technology, what a young man wants most is to be loved.
Can mentoring help youth better deal with today’s political and racial tensions? There is a lot going on in the world today, from police abuse to a global pandemic. Being able to talk with someone about these things can be life-changing.
How do you talk about these issues with The Rising scholars? During our Rising sessions, we ask the young men to talk about how they feel, what they’ve seen and heard. Then we ask: If you were an adult, what would you do? How would you change things? It gives them a chance to talk about what is going on without being judged. Some ask questions, many talk about their fears. The mentors share their experiences, as well. We tell them the most important thing is to make it home each day. If you are stopped by the police, do everything they ask you to do. It is better we pick you up from the police station under the wrong circumstances than to have to identify you at the morgue.
Describe being a mentor in three words. Rewarding, fulfilling, commitment.
Seattle School District is launching Temporary Resource Centers to help support PreK-12 students and families with technology access.
Technology support includes:
Laptop and SPS device support
Hot spots support
Support with remote learning software (e.g., Seesaw, Schoology) and other educational resources
General technology resource information and support
Support with the following translation software:
Additional English Language instructional support
Technology Resource Center Locations and Times
The following sites are open for families and students for walk-ins and appointments. Students and families can make appointments for the following services by calling Student Tech Line at: 206-252-0100 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org:
Concord International Elementary School 723 S Concord St. Seattle, WA 98108 Mondays and Wednesdays: 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Closed for Lunch: 11 – 11:30
Rainier View Elementary School 11650 Beacon Ave. S Seattle, WA 98178 Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m Closed for Lunch 11 – 11:30
Aki Kurose Middle School 3928 S Graham St. Seattle, WA 98118 Mondays and Wednesdays: 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Closed for Lunch: 11 – 11:30
Bailey Gatzert Elementary School 1301 E Yesler Way Seattle, WA 98122 Mondays and Wednesdays: 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Closed for Lunch: 11 – 11:30
Nathan Hale High School 10750 30th Ave NE Seattle, WA 98125 Entrance is on 110th street near the athletic field. Parking is available on 110th. Mondays and Wednesdays: 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Closed for Lunch: 11 – 11:30
Chief Sealth International High School 2600 SW Thistle St, Seattle, WA 98126 Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m Closed for Lunch 11 – 11:30
Mercer International Middle School 1600 S Columbian Way, Seattle, WA 98108 Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m Closed for Lunch 11 – 11:30
John Marshall Alternative High 520 NE Ravenna Blvd, Seattle, WA 98115 Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Closed for Lunch 11 – 11:30
The Rising has been fortunate to partner with two Seattle middle schools whose principals and staff have fully supported the program goals. At the end of the school year, we asked Chanda Oatis, principal, Meany Middle School, and assistant principal Mawiayah Fields, Denny International Middle School, to share some feedback with us.
Ms. Fields noted that students were uplifted by the program. “The Rising scholars see that there are adults and a community who truly believe in them and their families,” she said. “The mentors are a dedicated and caring support team. I really enjoyed their fellowship and intentional request for feedback to improve the level of programming.”
Family members also realized the value of the program. Several family members whose children attend Denny International told us how excited the students are to join the virtual session each week. “For one young man, his confidence increased and now he has another role model to hold him accountable,” said Ms. Fields. The program also helped his family build positive relationships and the family felt supported through difficult times.
At Meany Middle School, The Rising received high marks as well. “It’s a part of their week that they look forward to,” said Principal Oatis.