Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $2,000,000)
The Center for Supportive Schools (CSS) will fund a combined peer group and one-on-one mentoring project in 38 high schools in 13 high-need communities across 7 states (DC, MA, MD, NJ, NY, NC, PA) reaching 10,750 students. The project will address the problem behaviors associated with the profound weakness in the support provided to students during the transition into high school. This transition period is often marked by increases in absenteeism, truancy, and discipline problems, and declines in academic achievement and school attachment. CSS proposes to strengthen and expand an evidence-based high school transition and peer group mentoring program, known as Peer Group Connection (PGC). PGC immerses 9th grade students in safe and supportive groups led by older student peer mentors, thereby contributing to a school environment that: enables and inspires students to come to school ready to learn, achieve, and graduate; helps prevent and address bullying; and promotes family engagement. Evaluation results over 30 years consistently demonstrate that PGC improves school engagement as well as students’ academic, social, and emotional skills, resulting in: significantly lower dropout rates; improved grades; increased school attendance; fewer discipline referrals; and avoidance of high-risk behaviors. The project will enhance the mentoring services provided through PGC by: (1) assessing mentee risk and providing structured 1:1, adult-student mentoring activities to high-risk 10th graders; (2) integrating additional best practices in each of the 6 core standards of practice; and (3) enhancing practices for adult mentor recruitment, training, and matching. Goals include: building the capacity of 38 high schools across 7 states to provide group mentoring services to underserved youth; enhancing mentoring services provided to underserved youth by layering a 1:1 mentoring component with a group mentoring program for youth who are at substantially elevated risk for problem behaviors and school dropout; reducing problem behavior and improving youth outcomes through a school-based team and individual mentoring initiative for underserved youth. CSS will partner with school and district leadership in each target community to implement the project. Over the grant period, a total of 10,750 students will receive peer group mentoring in 9th grade through PGC and 608 students who are most at-risk will receive in 10th grade a 2nd year of specialized, 1:1 mentoring in 10th grade by a school-based adult through the enhancement.