December 15, 2017 Blog, Fund Program, Innovation, Leadership

Virtual Mentoring for College-bound High School Seniors

Principal Femi Skanes at Al Raby High School works diligently all year to prepare her college-bound seniors for post-secondary success. She even plans college fairs at Raby for students to learn about academics and the application process. However, she noticed that students were not prepared for the everyday challenges of college life, such as planning travel home or handling a difficult roommate. This challenge inspired Femi to apply for the 2016 Cahn Fellowship, where she designed a virtual mentoring program for her college-bound seniors called Electronic Mentoring Around College Experience (EMACE).

The Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished Public School Principals is a national program at Columbia University. The program brings together principals from New York, Chicago and Newark, N.J., for professional development. Femi decided to apply for the Cahn Fellowship as a way of broadening her impact and re-imagining solutions to challenges at her school. “Through Cahn, I learned how to stretch my leadership,” she said. “Specifically, it helped me think about my style of leadership and taught me new problem-solving methods.”

Femi designed the EMACE program by first considering what aspect of post-secondary life her students needed the most support in. Since many of her students were first-generation college attendee’s, Femi decided to design a program around the social and emotional challenges of transitioning in to college.

Using social media, Femi recruited mentors and designed a curriculum for mentoring pairs to discuss throughout the year. The curriculum was centered on the “soft stuff” students needed to know about life in college – like how to manage time and deal with roommates.

Femi implemented EMACE during the 2016-2017 school year with great success. Some mentors even connected with students in person by attending school basketball games and college “decision-day” at the end of the year. The mentoring relationship can continue on after graduation and into college. When students hit a bump in the road, they can lean on their mentor for support and advice.

This is comforting to Femi, who works diligently to prepare her students to take on the challenges and opportunities of the post-secondary world. Femi sees her role as principal as planting “the seed for success” for her students. She hopes EMACE will help students achieve their goals of graduating from college, and looks forward to seeing their success in their future – maybe even returning to Raby as mentors.

Want to learn even more about Femi’s work at Al Raby? Watch her video below!