February 21, 2011
PORT CHESTER, NY – A new one-of-a-kind enhanced mentoring program called I Believe, I Achieve includes a focus on parental involvement, accountability and fitness. The program empowers families, not just the Littles, says Marsha Tom, Director of BBBS of FSW.
A special grant from the Walter and Vera Scher Family Foundation has allowed Big Brothers Big Sisters of FSW to create this multifaceted mentoring program between Manhattanville College and Scholastic Academy. I Believe, I Achieve matches 10 pupils in fourth to sixth-grade with college-aged students, who meet with their Littles once a week for 90 minutes. As part of their twice a week after-school instruction, the students work on creative writing and art projects, all of which are designed to reinforce the lessons they are learning in the classroom. Field trips and educational support services enhance the work of the mentors as well.
Parents get involved by attending workshops on nutrition and drug prevention and chaperoning their childs field trips. Students are required to maintain good school attendance, read books outside of class, participate in a team sport and work toward improving their grades. They are also given a membership to a local YMCA. Scorecards keep track of the progress made by both the parents and students for each marking period. When both parents and their children meet the criteria outlined, they both receive a $50 gift card. If the parent or child fails to meet the goals, neither receives the gift card, however. The scorecards help both the students and the parents know exactly what they have to do, adds Tom.
At the end of the year, the writings and drawings of each student will be published in a book. These books will be put into circulation at the Yonkers Public Library. Two of the biggest goals of the program are to have the students develop a love of learning, which is reinforced in the home, and to give the children the expectation that they will attend college, says BBBS Director Marsha Tom.
Family Services of Westchester hopes to sustain the I Believe, I Achieve program for the original group in the second year and add another 10 students as well. We are getting positive feedback about the program from everyone involved — the students, mentors, parents and the principal at Scholastic Academy, notes Tom.