In last week's post, I talked the Winston Opportunity Project's plan to address the socioeconomic mobility problems in our city. In this week post, I will be talking about the specific model that we identified to serve as a guide as we grow as an organization.
As the Winston Opportunity Project continues to forward with its programming plans, we recognize the importance of identifying an established organization that shares a similar process and goals. In order to develop a scalable process to expand and touch the lives of more youth, having a model organization has been a priority.
The Institute for Educational Leadership’s Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program is a career-focused mentorship initiative that, like the Winston Opportunity Project, seeks to empower and support youth as they make and pursue long term goals related to their future endeavors in education and academics. This program provides its participants with hands-on exposure to high opportunity careers that provide them with the direction and opportunity for success later on in life as well as a strong support system of mentors and career professionals who guide the mentees on their path to academic, vocational, and personal development.
We pinpointed RAMP as an applicable model for our programming because of its focus on providing participants with opportunity - opportunity to be part of a diverse and supporting social network, gain insight into their strength and interests, interact with employers, and learn about higher education. These opportunities are pivotal for the future success of the next generation of leaders, scholars, and career professionals, but as we talked about in the last two articles, for underserved youth in Winston, lack of resources, underfunded educational systems, and lack of ample support systems prevent access to opportunities and tools like the ones RAMP provide.
The RAMP program is highly adaptable and has been utilized with many different groups of youth. After 7 years of work at 9 sites across the country with youth at-risk, youth involved in the juvenile system, and youth with disabilities, a systematic review of the impacts of the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program found many positive impacts. Most notably, 75% of RAMP youth saw an increase in school attendance, and 96% completed high school. The efficacy of the RAMP program has even been recognized by the federal government. The Office Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention recently awarded RAMP a 2,000,000 dollar grant to continue operations and expansion.
The Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program is built around the Individualized Mentoring Plan (IMP) made for each participant according to their academic, career, and personal goals. The IMP tracks the development and success of the mentee as they grow and develop their strengths and interests. The IMP also provides guidance for the mentor as they work to ensure the success of their mentee(s).
The mentorship aspect of the program along with the IMP help to build and reinforce the students’ sense of self efficacy throughout the program. The mentee helps the student work towards a long term goal by walking them through the small short term goals and steps needed to reach this goal. Through this process, the student is provided with a support system and the necessary resources to achieve their goals. The mentee learns that with the support of the RAMP community, they can achieve whatever they put their mind to, and this is extremely empowering.
This program is divided into several phases through which the program helps youth to undergo a step-by-step progression towards future success. The first two phases of the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program are a self-exploration time phase in which the students explore their own strengths and interests and then a career exploration phase during which students form their career and academic aspirations based on their interests. In the third phase, they put their career and academic interests and aspirations into practice through hands-on team projects and job shadowing (for older students) where students will build important soft skills and gain hands-on experience in their areas of interest. In the fourth and final phase, the students are connected to summer school or employment, begin to prepare for the next academic year, or pursue enrollment in postsecondary or vocational education. Each phase comprises 10 to 12 meetings between the mentee and mentor, and all together the program generally lasts one year, but depending on the needs of the student, enrollment can continue past this time period
Another key component of the RAMP model is family engagement and support. Families of participants are encouraged to be involved in the efforts of the program and invited to play a role in the program operations. The program also leverages its own community connection to provide families with necessary resources and support as needed.
What enables RAMP to be such a successful program and provide its participants with experiences like hands-on career related projects and the opportunity to be a part of the support system of mentors, community organizations, and other members of the community is an extensive network of community partnerships. Educational partnerships that allow the right groups of youth to be reached along with employment and community partners are key for program success. In addition, partnerships allow for successful and streamlined mentor and volunteer recruitment. Overall, collaboration within the community plays an integral role in community outreach efforts like these which attempt to bring about sustainable change.
After a great meeting with the RAMP team, The Winston Opportunity Project was able to gain an in-depth understanding of the model, processes, and practices used by RAMP. We are working to implement and adapt different aspects of the model to fit our and our participants needs. As we proceed, we will be building off of the phased design and the IMP to bring the RAMP model to life in Winston Salem.
For more information about the IEL's RAMP model, visit their official website: http://iel.org/about-ramp-model