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Empowering Students To Succeed: One Mentor’s Experience in AmeriCorps Mentors for Success Program

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AmeriCorps Mentors for Success is dedicated to providing mentoring for middle and high school students struggling with attendance, academics, and social-emotional skills. Our mentors strive to build connections that will enhance students’ confidence and connectedness to school. 

Alvis Moore (pictured) sat down with the ESC Communications team to share his inspiring story as a mentor during the 2019-2020 school year and how the program has made a difference in his life.

We hope after reading about his experience, you’ll consider becoming a mentor or tutor with our AmeriCorps programs to make an impact in students’ lives. 

Question: Where do you mentor?
Answer: I was placed in Reynoldsburg City Schools at the Encore Academy and eSTEM Academy.

Q: What is your role as a mentor?
A: I helped students improve their attendance and academics. I also provided them a safe place to talk and to vent. We would work together to come up with solutions that would allow them to think more clearly.

Q: What made you interested in becoming a mentor?
A: I saw the posting and thought, “Wow, this is a passion of mine and a part of my heart.” Working in the educational field reminded me how great children are and how much of an influence you can have on them. I wanted the opportunity to do it again and this gave me the chance. 

Q: Have you always had a passion for education? What experience have you had in education prior to this program?
A: Yes, I did. I didn’t know I did when I was in college, though. There were three professors that were instrumental in my college life. They kept saying “Alvis, you need to be a teacher,” when I was thinking of being in the public relations field. So, I considered it and I’m glad I listened to them. 

I taught from 1975-2006, with 30 of those years spent at Whetstone high school. I taught all language arts, journalism, literature, reading, theater, and I was even cheerleading advisor.  

Q: Have you ever had a mentor or role model in your life? If so, who were they and why were they special?
A: I grew up in church, so I had several men that guided me and kept me focused. My director, my pastor, all of them. It was like a community that surrounded us at that time to help us stay out of trouble and remind us that if we did anything, to make sure it was something that made a difference in the world. 

My hero is my oldest brother, Henry. I remember him always taking the time to make me feel like the loved little brother. He taught me how to read, how to spell, how to make a bow and arrow out of a branch and pop bottle caps, how to make a skateboard out of skates, how to catch bugs because we grew up in the south. He surrounded me with his love and guidance and always included me in everything he did.

Q: What have you enjoyed most about this experience?
A: There are so many things. Being able to be with the students, seeing their reactions, and experiencing their successes. They welcomed me into their lives, and I welcomed them to be a part of mine. I really enjoyed that they would bring their friends down to talk. It made me feel valuable, like I was there and I was there for a reason, and I was meeting that reason in more ways than one. That is what made me really fall in love with the experience. They didn’t seem to hold back in trying to share with me and understood if they told me something that wasn’t hurting them, it would be kept confidential.

Q: What was your work space like?
A: I have to acknowledge the amount of support I got from the administration [at Reynoldsburg City Schools]. They made sure I had a space where I could talk with the students. I had a little office off of the gym. It was a place where the students and I could really talk and come up with some solutions for the problems they were going through. 

Since COVID-19, the administration helped me stay connected with my students in a way that wouldn’t break the guidelines that I am supposed to observe as a mentor. It was important for me to stay in touch with them now with everything going on. I had to reach them and make sure they were able to navigate through their struggles. 

Q: Do you have a favorite memory from your time as a mentor? If so, what made it so memorable?
A: The one thing that made me almost cry was when I was in a workshop with the students. We were discussing social-emotional learning, thinking errors, self-image, and I told them to give me some feedback. One student said “Mr. Moore, I wish you had been here when I first started as a freshman because I probably would have done better. I’m so glad you’re here.” When he said that, it was a ripple effect from the other students and just hearing that makes you choke up.

Q: How has serving as a mentor impacted your life? 
A: It has impacted my life in more ways than one. It taught me to be very organized, which has never been one of my greatest suits. I’m learning now that I have to be organized to meet the needs of the individual students and their parents who I communicate with. Sometimes I overwhelm myself because I have a tendency to get so involved. The biggest thing I have to understand is that I am not a rescuer. I don’t have all the answers, so I have to learn how to empower them to move forward and help them realize they have skills to do it.

Q: How has this experience been different from your past teaching experiences?
A: It is much easier. I can focus on the students a little bit more rather than everything else on a teacher’s agenda. It lets me stay connected and help them realize the teachers are there for them. As a teacher, it can be a struggle to find quality time to spend with students in a one-on-one setting. Being the mentor, pusher, wind beneath their wings allows me to do that. 

Q: How have you used the unique information you learned in training when mentoring your students?
A: The information we have at our hands is just amazing. Some things I was able to get certified in was fun to do. We had the tools to teach students how to communicate and understand the historical things happening around us. I am putting all these tools together now with the hopes that next year I can really use them to pull students closer and really discover themselves. I want them to discover themselves and their greatness and the rest of it will all come together.  

[Alvis received certifications in:
• Analyzing Propaganda and Teaching Media Literacy: The Holocaust as a Case Study
• Ending the Stigma: Strategies for Disability Justice for Teachers and School Staff
• Transformational Texts: Using Children’s Literature to Open Doors on Historical and Current Events
• Promoting Trauma-Informed Policies and Practices to Address Child Sex Trafficking 
• Finding Balance with EdTech and Face-Time for Meaningful Class Experience
• Coronavirus: Teaching Complex Current Events and Supporting Student Well-Being
• Connecting Students Through Conversation: Bringing Oral History into the Classroom with StoryCorps
• Mental Well-Being: How Do I Take Care of Myself When So Many Others Are Needing Me?]

Q: After school switched to remote learning, did you notice any emotional changes in the students’ you mentor? If so, how did those changes make you adjust to the way you mentored them?
A: Yes. I had difficulties myself and I felt their emotions because they couldn’t connect physically. They couldn’t see my face, and we couldn’t just sit down and talk. Even though I might reach out to them by email, the responses that I got during the school year was way better. I miss seeing the look on their face when they experienced a new accomplishment. I had to dig in and make sure I used the tools I had at hand. 

Q: What is next for you? In 10 years when you think back at this time, what do you think you’ll remember most?
A: I would love to do this program next year. If I can do it again, I already have an idea on how to improve and be prepared for any obstacles after facing COVID. I think of my students as my own grandchildren. Some of them really do need someone to embrace them and I’m glad I know how.

When I look back in 10 years, I will remember COVID and how it stopped the momentum of the program. I will remember the courage and determination of my students during this time. They worked to win and not lose, especially my graduating seniors. I am so proud of them. 

Q: Is there anything else you want to share about your experience in the Mentors for Success program?
A: Kevin and Dr. Noe have made it wonderful. Kevin was a great coordinator and kept us engaged in the things that matter. We went to a senior’s citizens home and it was the best time I’ve had in a while. Interacting with them was so much fun because they still had that zest and thrill for life. 

Doing the community service, attending team meetings, and using the empowering tools we got as lessons or books, you were not left to guess at what you were doing. You were given the tools to use. To me, that speaks volumes. AmeriCorps gave you the chance to learn in order to be productive and effective in what you were doing for the program.

Q: Would you recommend the Mentors for Success program to others? What advice do you have for new mentors?
A: Yes, I would. If you want to do something that’s making a difference, if you want to do something that will really make a change and contribute to our generation, do this. I would do it every year until I’m 150. I know that it makes a difference, it’s not something I have to figure out, I just know. 

I wish I started at the beginning of the school year. I came a little after it started so I had to get connected at a later point. If you’re in it, get to know the staff and teachers and you will discover that they will value you. If your attitude and intent is right, they will see you as a team member. If you are really making a difference, you will have more than the number of students on the roster in your room. That’s a compliment to both you and the Mentors for Success program. 

Madison Powers is the communications and marketing intern at the ESC. Madison is entering her senior year at The Ohio State University, studying Strategic Communication with a minor in Professional Writing. She has studied abroad in Italy, worked as a student caller at the Ohio State Call Center, assisted in research for the School of Communication, and served as public relations chair for Pink Out at Ohio State.

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