As many of you know, I'm a mentor for the SMART program, a San Francisco non-profit that "provides highly motivated, financially-disadvantaged students with access to educational opportunities, personal experiences and social support services in order to foster academic excellence and community engagement."
Specifically, I mentor Melissa; she's 13 (we've been hanging out for two years) and attends The San Francisco School (and she's currently doing her high school applications!).
Essentially, SMART takes kids that have access to sub-par educations in sub-par SF school districts and provide them full scholarships from 6th-12th grade at SF's best private institutions. This transfer, as you can imagine, is daunting and challenging for the kids, not only academically, but also socially. They receive both dedicated academic tutors as well as mentors, like me (don't laugh), to help guide them through.
You want to hear something pretty bad-ass? Only 8% of low-income students earn a college degree. 92% of SMART students attend college. For many, they're first generation college attendees. When you think about how this changes their paths in life, it's really amazing.
Being a mentor is a rewarding experience. On one hand, it feels good to provide Melissa the chance to do things she wouldn't necessarily be able to do otherwise - go to House of Air, chill at the zoo, bake holiday cookies, try Indian food for the first time. And I get to help her push herself and learn to grow and do things that are scary - like getting on a horse for the first time, and running a mile (working on getting her to join the cross country team). And most of all, it's been cool to watch her change and grow into a more socially aware, comfortable, and confident young women - which happens a little more each time we hang out.
If you'd like to read more about SMART - check it out here.
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