ASPIRE welcomes new coordinator, seeks mentors
Last updated 2/6/2024 at 10:51am
One of the goals at Sisters High School is to have each and every graduate have a plan for what they will be doing after graduation. Students can turn to parents, school counselors and teachers for help along the way, but there is an additional place to find assistance: the ASPIRE program.
ASPIRE, which is an acronym for Access to Student Assistance Programs in Reach of Everyone, has been available throughout Oregon for many years, including at Sisters High School. Recently, Jessica Sampson took over as the ASPIRE coordinator and her primary goal in her first full year is to replenish the number of volunteer mentors working in the program.
In the past, nearly thirty mentors made themselves available to seniors and juniors for assistance in scoping out post-high school plans. That number has fallen significantly, in part since the pandemic, and Sampson is working hard to get four to eight new mentors in place this school year.
School counselor Rick Kroytz worked for seven years as the ASPIRE coordinator, and believes firmly in the model.
“The role of our mentor is to work one-on-one with students to develop and encourage students to think about their future. They are a peer, guide, and cheerleader depending on what is being talked about or worked on,” he said. “Mentors are the core of the ASPIRE program, and what makes Sisters High School college and career program so amazing is the relationships mentors form with students as they help the students begin to take charge of their own futures.”
The ASPIRE program provides training for mentors to help familiarize them with their role and boundaries. Mentors are not equated with being professional college consultants, but rather serve as adults who come alongside students to help discuss ideas, do introductory research on colleges and careers, and help kids manage deadlines and more, according to Kroytz.
“The ideal mentor is someone who cares about kids and wants to help them form viable plans for post-high school education and training,” he said. “It is important for kids to know that ASPIRE is not just about applying to four year colleges. Mentors can help support students seeking all kinds of post-high school learning.”
Shaina Ross is among the newest mentors for ASPIRE and is motivated by what the program offers students.
“I never had anyone sit down with me at this age and explain how to manage applications and deadlines,” she said. “It’s so important to have someone on your side because the process can be intimidating. I really enjoy getting to know the students and I am hopeful I am making a positive impact. ”
In addition to the mentor program, ASPIRE helps host a college planning event for juniors and their parents each year and works closely with the local scholarship program for graduates, Sisters GRO, which administered over $250,000 in scholarships last year to SHS students (see sidebar).
Sampson encourages anyone who is interested in joining the ASPIRE team to contact her via email at [email protected] .
“From what I have witnessed already, students truly appreciate the work the mentors do and the mentors get a great deal of satisfaction getting to know the kids and helping them. It’s a win-win,” she said.