Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $2,000,000)
The Center for Supportive Schools (CSS) is applying for a Multi-State Mentoring Grant (Category 2) for a 36-month combined peer group and one-on-one mentoring project in 38 high schools in 25 high-need communities across 10 states (DC, DE, IL, MA, MD, MN, NJ, NY, NC, PA) reaching 12,040 students and training 2,024 peer and adult mentors. The proposed 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. We propose to strengthen and expand an evidence-based high school transition and peer group mentoring program, known as Peer Group Connection-High School (PGC-HS). PGC-HS 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 consistently demonstrate that PGC-HS 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 proposed project will enhance the mentoring services provided through PGC-HS by: assessing mentee risk and providing structured 1:1, adult-student mentoring activities to high-risk 10th graders; integrating additional best practices in each of the 6 core standards of practice; and enhancing practices for adult mentor recruitment, training, and matching. The proposed project will promote racial equity with the following goals: building the capacity of 38 high schools across 10 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. We will partner with school and district leadership in each target community to implement the proposed project.