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Thank you to our guest blogger, Jonathan Greer, Director of iC.A.R.E. Mentoring.

What Is iC.A.R.E.?

iC.A.R.E. Mentoring is a school-based mentoring program/platform that supports students through positive, purposeful mentoring relationships with community volunteers. iC.A.R.E. provides “best practice” systems, processes and innovative resources to our volunteer mentors to improve efficiency and quality of mentoring services. iC.A.R.E. is all about supporting more mentees (students) with quality, supportive, and positive adult mentors to develop positive and purposeful relationships that will truly impact their lives, their families, and the communities in which they live.

History – 

Most people see iC.A.R.E. as an overnight success, but it wasn’t. My wife, Jessica, and I started the program about 10+ years ago at a small scale when it was just her and I writing curriculum and putting together plans. We started a weekly mentoring program in 2013 at one school called “Man-Up Mentoring.” It was a huge success, so much that one day in December of 2014 when I came to facilitate the mentoring program the Akron Beacon Journal was present and interviewed our mentees.  The next day it made the front page and brought awareness and validity to the program.

The development of iC.A.R.E. evolved from the marriage of key factors and existing programs to meet a need in the Akron Public Schools, the fifth largest public-school district in Ohio. As with any public-school system the district is always vetting programming and outside groups willing to provide services to its students. One particular type of these programs are mentoring initiatives which can bring a myriad of individuals and agendas into the school or create “extra” duties for already stretched public school staff members. Akron’s Superintendent charged the Department of Student Services to streamline or create a process for all mentoring programs wanting to enter APS with programming for the betterment of the students. One of the programs available to the students in the city of Akron was the Man-Up Mentoring program. The Department of Student Services and the Man-Up program joined forces to create the initial stages of iC.A.R.E.Mentoring by creating standards of practice or an umbrella of services for mentoring programs to fall under with the tenants of iC.A.R.E. serving as the stem or handle of the umbrella.

As the Man-Up Movement was initiating our weekly mentoring program in one of Akron’s 48 schools, the movement was growing for APS Central Office employees to begin mentoring students. The initial program hosted a combination of Man-Up and APS employees to serve 27 students with a 1:1 school based positive adult relationships. Several months into the initiative a grant opportunity was available from the State of Ohio Department of Education and the Office of the Governor entitled the “Community Connectors Grant”. The Community Connectors grant was formed to engage community partners and public-school districts in the State of Ohio by forming collaborations for mentoring with public schools, the business community and the faith-based community (Ohio Department of Education, 2016). As the mentoring initiative was underway in the Akron Public Schools this opportunity presented an avenue for program growth and positive impact on the students and community as a whole.

From the standpoint of the Community Connectors Grant program the community and faith-based organizations were recruited for their expertise and resource base. The faith-based community was targeted from the beginning of the grant process as it holds a huge pool of potential volunteer mentors for students in APS. It has remained involved from the standpoint of promotion and resources by availing facilities for mentor recruitment and trainings through the first year. 

As the program grew to about 200 mentor-mentee matches in a year’s time, I could no longer manage and recruit mentors for the program by myself.  That’s when the United Way connected with me and shared that they were coming out with a proposal request that my program should apply for to get a grant to add on an additional staff member.  I applied and received the funding but iC.A.R.E. and United Way of Summit County (UWSC) started talking about the idea of partnership and the iC.A.R.E. program becoming a program of the UWSC instead of simply a funded agency.  That’s when we decided to become a program of UWSC.

Goals –

Developing communities that C.A.R.E. (Create Authentic Relational Energy) by bolstering student motivation and confidence, social emotional development, improve student academic progress/achievement (GPA), promote positive adult-to-student relationship development

Vision –

Our Vision is to enhance the quality of life for mentored students by reducing achievement gaps so that every child has equitable opportunities and is prepared for success in the classroom and in life.

Mission –

The mission of iC.A.R.E. Mentoring is to impact mentors and mentees to foster relationships that cultivate mutual development and empowerment of youth.

We need 125 new mentors for Akron Public Schools and Barberton City Schools prior to the beginning of the 2019-2020 Academic School Year.  Mentor onboarding is going on now and interested parties can go to:  www.uwsummit.org/mentor to get involved.

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