Dr. Dolores Mize, director of system advancement for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, spoke recently about the significant role grandparents and senior citizens can play in helping young people achieve college success.
In an address she gave at the Oklahoma State Service Corps Directors Association Quarterly Meeting, Mize indicated the importance of mentoring students and the impact that this one-on-one learning activity can have in the education process.
Mentoring is one of several key strategies emphasized in Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), a federal program designed to better prepare students for college. Last August, the U.S. Department of Education awarded Oklahoma a five-year grant totaling $20.5 million to implement GEAR UP activities across the state, including college preparation and awareness programs for students and parents and scholarships.
"GEAR UP is a program that stresses the importance of mentoring in our schools," Mize said. "We want to encourage seniors to be our partners in GEAR UP by becoming mentors and helping Oklahoma students as they prepare for college.
"In addition to being a much-needed service in our schools, mentoring young people can be an emotionally rewarding experience as well," said Mize. "Our society is so mobile now, many senior citizens do not get to spend a great deal of time with their grandchildren. Mentoring provides an opportunity for these two generations to work together, to get to know one another and to respect each other."
In addition, Mize said, students get more than just academic improvement from mentoring. Over time mentoring can increase self-esteem, improve attitudes toward learning, cultivate class participation, enhance the ability to work independently and strengthen cooperation skills in students.
"Mentoring gives children the extra help they need -- whether the need is for remedial work, developing genuine enthusiasm for learning or providing deeper enrichment to a growing mind," said State Regents Chairman Bill W. Burgess Jr. "A sensitive human presence combined with the right learning program can make a great difference in a child's future."
According to statistics from the Corporation for National Service, more than 600 senior citizens served as mentors in Oklahoma last year.
"Having retired seniors serving as mentors in our schools ensures the experience and wisdom of older adults is available to children who might not have that experience any other way," said Chancellor Hans Brisch. "We commend the grandparents and senior citizens serving as mentors in Oklahoma's schools and recognize the valuable contribution they are making to Oklahoma's future."
The GEAR UP grant was awarded to Oklahoma in August 1999 and has been matched by more than $25 million from state and partner resources. With funds totaling $45.5 million, GEAR UP receives 45 percent of total funding from the federal government and 55 percent from other organizations.