State schools | Head of public schools offers statewide mentorship program

SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond on Thursday announced plans to establish a statewide mentorship program to help all California students and is calling for the participation of state mentoring organizations that would like to be part of the initiative. The goal of the effort is to connect caring adult volunteers with California students who need extra support to succeed in school.

“When I first started thinking about running to become a state superintendent, I always thought that to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement, there needed to be a program to make sure no student slips through the cracks – a way to focus on students who need extra help,” Thurmond said. “I had intended to pilot such a program early in my tenure, but that plan was shelved when the pandemic started I can see how a program like this is even more needed right now due to the impact of the pandemic on learning and socio needs -emotional of Californian students.

The primary focus will be supporting middle and high school students, but students at all levels can be supported in any part of the state, including students in urban, rural, suburban, or border communities. The program will focus on students of color, low-income students, and any other students who need additional support. Mentors can provide career coaching, motivational talks, and basic tutoring, but will primarily serve as caring adults who can help students succeed in school and in life.

Thurmond said he views the mentorship program as one that will work in conjunction with many other programs implemented by the California Department of Education to help students heal, recover and thrive, including a $3 billion community schools strategy; universal meal and transitional kindergarten programs being developed; and a host of grant programs to address social isolation, anti-racism, and professional development for school staff. The mentorship program will also work in conjunction with efforts Thurmond recently announced to recruit 10,000 mental health clinicians to support Black student success and to support literacy and biliteracy for California students.

Thurmond plans to expand the mentorship program while continuing to visit schools regularly, and he will release more details about the program’s design in the coming weeks. He also intends to hold regular motivational talks with pupils, drawing on his own experiences as a former pupil in need, during school visits. Thurmond credits his teachers and caring adults in his community for helping him overcome challenges such as losing his mother to cancer when he was six and growing up in a foster home. Afro-Latino immigrants where his family often relied on public assistance programs to provide when there was not enough food in the house.

Organizations interested in supporting this mentorship program for California students should contact [email protected].

The California Department of Education is a state agency headed by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. For more information, please visit the California Department of Education website.