People in your community can provide schools with a wide range of services and assistance vital to struggling students, including attendance monitoring, mentoring, tutoring, internships and service learning opportunities, summer school programs, after-school programs, and transition support. Adults involved in these programs become students’ advocates — champions who can spot academic and personal challenges early and get them the support they need.
These efforts can be housed in both the schools and the community, and can be sponsored by faith-based organizations, corporations and federations of local businesses, nonprofit initiatives, colleges and universities, school districts, and others. There are likely some organizations in your community that are already providing student support, but are perhaps doing so outside of the school day, not linked to the schools. It can be very powerful to build a collaboration with the schools as well as among service organizations. Larger school districts often have a volunteer or partnership office and sometimes larger schools have a person who is a designated community contact; otherwise, the principal may play this role. Reach out and collaborate with them to identify how best to best support their efforts.
There are also numerous organizations your community can contact to learn more about how to engage skilled volunteers to fill important gaps in your student support structure. Many national organizations provide information and resources for setting up student supports in your community. For example:
The Corporation for National and Community Service provides information for individuals and organizations on how to leverage “people power” to make an impact in young people’s lives. For resources to help establish and maintain well-managed and effective service and volunteer programs, visit http://www.nationalservice.gov/for_organizations/overview/index.asp. The site includes featured effective practices including “Assisting Underperforming Students with After-School Service-Learning” and “Designing a Family Literacy Program.” Visit http://www.nationalservice.gov/for_organizations/tta/best_practices.asp# EDUCATION.
MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership, works with a network of state and local mentoring partnerships to promote quality relationships nationwide. For more information, including information on the Elements of Effective Practice in mentoring, visit mentoring.org.
Corporate Voices for Working Families provides several tools meant for communities that want to create sustainable partnerships with local business leaders. These include “Building the Business Case for Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce: Employers” and also see “Positive Returns from Community Partnerships”: http://corporatevoices.org/our- work/workforce-readiness/ready-21/tools-community-leaders.
The White House Council for Community Solutions has also released a Toolkit for Employers: Connecting Youth and Business. See: www.serve.gov/council_resources.asp.
Points of Light offers HandsOn Connect, a single-platform volunteer management software that allows users to create and publicize volunteer opportunities, track progress and impact of volunteer projects and engage and manage volunteer teams among other key features. To watch a recorded demonstration that provides an overview of HandsOn Connect and learn more about the program, see http://www.handsonconnect.org/demo.
To learn more about the role of adult advocacy, see:
Why Adult Advocates Matter
A summary of the most recent, relevant research literature that concludes that all children need an adult advocate, especially as they make critical life decisions such as whether to stay in school. In particular, see pages 17-22 of this dropout prevention resource from the Institute of Education Sciences. http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/pdf/practiceguides/dp_pg_090308.pdf