Connor Willis and CJ Muth came back from their study abroad experience at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia with a goal in mind. During their study abroad experience, Willis and Muth had the opportunity to work with The Australian Indigenous Mentoring Program (AIME).
AIME is a mentorship program that was founded in Australia to help bridge the educational gap in the country between indigenous students and general students. Many of the indigenous students in Australia were not attending high school or graduating from high school because of outside factors, such as discrimination and a lack of mentorship. The intention of AIME was that college students in Australia could help guide the high school students and help tutor them academically and personally.
The success of AIME in Australia has led to the expansion of the program throughout the world. The program expanded to West Africa last year and is currently being implemented in the United States.
Pace joins 18 other universities around the country in implementing this program within their local community.
Willis and Muth were looking for a volunteer to become a “hooded scholar” for the program at Pace. A hooded scholar is a student in charge of the program at the university. Senior, Erika Berger took it upon herself to apply last fall. Her lifelong passion for volunteering and helping the youth lead her into applying for the position.
In fact, Berger says she was raised upon the idea that when your cup is full, use the access you have to pass it along to others. Berger ended up being one of out of less than a hundred students around the United States that were accepted into the hooded scholar program. As apart of the hooded scholar program, Berger traveled to Australia in February to meet with the CEO, gather more information on the program and receive training.
“I was able to really learn the heartbeat of the organization and network with other people who could help me on my journey of starting it here,” Berger said.
The senior is currently working on establishing contracts between the university and local high schools. The intention is for Pace to work with students who come from low-income families and may receive free or reduced lunches. Through research, Berger discovered that some of the graduation rates in Westchester County were low. Some of the schools have less than a 70% graduation rate. The schools that have a lower graduation rate had a higher population of students that come from low-income families.
Through AIME, Berger has set goals to help increase the graduation rate in the local high schools and help students with post-high school plans whether that would be college or entering the work-force. Furthermore, she is hoping that the university can help supply resources for schools and students who need it to help guide them towards success.
Currently, Berger is looking for students who are interested in becoming a mentee through this program. A mentee would be required to attend all the programming days that are held for the student at Pace, in addition, to attend the tutoring slots.
The mentees would assist in facilitating conversations, tutoring, and being active during the program and tutoring days. Furthermore, the mentee would have to attend training of some sort. The number of hours that a student would commit to this mentorship program is unknown at this point. Students who are interested can apply through AIME’s website and once Pace is fully listed on the site, they will receive information regarding the program.
Berger says that contracts are moving, and the hope is to have a firm relationship established between the university and a local school by next semester. Berger wants to see this program expand beyond her years at Pace and is looking to have mentors and an executive board in place for spring.
“We still may be doing assemblies at schools and mock program days and mock tutoring squads next semester, but this will be in pursuits of solidifying a relationship with a school that will want to work with us over the next couple of years to run this program,” she explained.
Berger encourages students to get out of their comfort zone and take this opportunity to help assist high-school students.
“I believe there’s a leader inside all of us and I’m just looking for people who are wanting to change the world, starting with our local community,” Berger said.