Mentors Help Madison County Students Prepare for College

Community mentors, educators and students gathered at Berea College on January 28 to reflect on the mentoring program that began this fall at Berea Community and Madison County middle schools. The mentoring program is a collaboration between Berea College’s GEAR UP partnership and the national organization College For Every Student (CFES).

When GEAR UP students in Madison County enter the eighth grade, they become Berea College CFES Scholars and are matched with a mentor. They meet during school twice a month and talk about classes, careers, the transition to high school and preparing for college.

Missy Wilkins, CFES Director of Mentoring, spoke at the lunch at Berea. “We’ve always known about mentoring increasing grades and attendance and improving students’ relationships with their parents. Some of the newest research coming out shows that mentoring helps students communicate with and have better relationships with their teachers.”

The eighth grade mentees that attended the lunch talked about their relationships with their mentors.  One student said, “I feel like I can go to my mentor if I have a problem during school. I can tell her anything.”  Another student with an interest in art said, “my mentor is an awesome drawer. In the last session, we drew ornaments and she taught us how to shade.”

Community artist and mentor Laurie Robie also uses her experience in the arts to connect with her students. “I like to share things I like to do with my mentees if they also like to do them. Last week they decided they wanted to work with polymer clay, so that’s what we’ll do.”

Other mentors and students spoke about connecting through sports, reading, cooking and conversation.  GEAR UP Coordinator Paula Wilder said, “I see mentors often do activities with mentees that promote critical thinking about college. Together, they research college scholarships, talk about ACT scores, fill out mock college applications and research potential colleges.”
GEAR UP students begin mentoring in the eighth grade to build the kind of support system they need to prepare for college. Missy Wilkins reminded mentors, “one of the great things a mentor does is to hold up a dream for a young person until they are able to hold up that dream for themselves.”

For more information about mentoring opportunities in Madison County, contact Paula Wilder at