Above: Dr. Linda Lane applauds students and mentors in United Way’s Be a Sixth Grade Mentor Program at Allegheny Middle School.
This year First Lady Michelle Obama called for 1 million mentors to get involved in the lives of kids across the country, and Allegheny Middle School in Allegheny West is just one of eight Pittsburgh Public Schools answering that call.
Tuesday afternoon, United Way, Pittsburgh Public Schools and Attorney General David Hickton gathered at Allegheny Middle School to celebrate the success of the United Way of Allegheny County’s Be a Sixth Grade Mentor program and received a donation of $125,000 from First Niagara Bank.
The program matches sixth grade kids with adult mentors who help them stay focused on their studies and their futures.
“Pittsburgh has such fabulous support, and this is just one of the ways you can see it,” said PPS Superintendent Linda Lane, who remarked on the exciting growth of the program since its inception three years ago. “Watching it grow has been just a gratifying experience.”
Allegheny Middle School Principal Toni Kendrick said that middle school students in the program have higher attendance rates, improved grades and are more focused on their futures.
About 20 eighth graders in the program sat on the stage of Allegheny’s auditorium and discussed career paths with United Way of Allegheny County President Bob Nelkin.
Students told the audience they wanted to be lawyers, teachers, doctors, social workers and one eighth graders was even as specific as to mention neonatology as a possible career for herself. The students also discussed their experiences in the past two years working with adults in the community
“Having a mentor is like having another person in your corner to look after you,” said Allegheny eighth grade student Joseph Jones, who hopes to go into the armed forces after high school.
First Niagara President Todd Moules presented a check for $125,000 to the program for the second year in a row and noted First Niagara’s continuing support of mentoring programs across the country. The bank’s Mentoring Matters program has donated over $3 million to mentoring programs nationwide.
“We are thrilled that our support will help the program continue to grow and to reach more students during this important time of their lives,” Moules said.
Across the City, there are currently 266 sixth grade mentors and 442 total mentors in eight middle schools.
US Attorney General David Hickton, a strong supporter of the program, said that the most impressive statistic he sees in the program is the 65 percent retention rate of mentors who choose to continue the program.
“These numbers tell me two things,” said Hickton. “First of all that this program is very valuable… and the mentees are getting as much out of this as the mentors. So to the students, hats off to you.”
Seventh grade mentor, Sarah Schneider spoke to the audience about her positive experience mentoring two students at Allegheny. She’s already told them she expects to be invited to their high school graduation parties.