Tuesday, January 6, 2015

WANTED: 1,000 Mentors for Manchester

Mayor Ted Gatsas, Dr.Debra Livington and Ray McNulty
of SNHU at the announcement of 1,000 Mentors
Superintendent Debra Livingston has announced a partnership with Southern New Hampshire University and the National Center for Competency-Based Learning to launch the 1,000 Mentors program for high school students in Manchester. The initiative aims to connect community members, businesses and organizations directly with the schools, expanding the number of ways students can earn academic credit outside of school. 
“Collaboration is essential for growing the extended learning opportunities we currently offer our students,” said Dr. Livingston. “We’re excited to work with organizations that support the concept of competency-based learning and want to help us reach our goals.”

Fred Bramante talks about the value of mentorships and how
1,000 Mentors will benefit Manchester's students

Founded by Fred Bramante, a former chairman of the New Hampshire Board of Education, the National Center for Competency-Based Learning (NCCBL) seeks to help all students succeed by advocating for nontraditional options for learning.

“We can create a customized learning plan for every child,” Bramante said. “But that can’t happen if we just focus on traditional classroom instruction and don’t consider the world of resources available beyond the walls of the school.”

It’s a goal shared by Southern New Hampshire University, which has been focused on creating learning opportunities for its students in a variety of ways, offering traditional on-campus classes, online courses, work-based and competency-driven learning, as well as a combination of those options. SNHU seized the chance to partner with NCCBL and Manchester schools to further its mission and use its expertise to help shape the process of experiential learning. 

“Learning in a classroom is one way, but not the only way, to master a skill or discipline,” said
Ray McNulty, Dean of the School of Education at SNHU. “A student’s success shouldn't be determined only by how he or she got there or how many hours it took.”

Among the goals of 1,000 Mentors is to prevent students from leaving school before they graduate -- and in the long-term, eliminate the district’s dropout rate.

“We know that engaging students and challenging them in new ways can keep students in school if they’re thinking about leaving or even bring them back after they’ve decided to drop out,” said Dr. Livingston. “With a program like 1,000 Mentors, we can identify more students’ interests and learning styles so that they don’t even consider leaving an option.”

The 1,000 Mentors program will emphasize students’ understanding of a subject or skill set. The mentors will be recruited, trained and matched with Manchester students. Expectations for both mentors and students in the program will be explicit, and achievement will be clearly defined. Students will earn academic credit by demonstrating mastery of concepts and skills.

Manchester’s Board of School Committee endorsed the 1,000 Mentors program earlier this year when Bramante presented the concept; the Curriculum and Instruction Committee voted unanimously to participate in the NCCBL project.

“Manchester is proud to provide opportunities for students to gain first hand, real world knowledge,” said Mayor Ted Gatsas. “As we did in establishing STEAM Ahead New Hampshire, we recognize the benefits of enhancing the way we educate our students to prepare them to be bright, confident leaders.”

Anyone in the community – doctors, lawyers, electricians, software developers, news reporters, painters, musicians – is welcome to take part in the 1,000 Mentors initiative; every specialty and area of discipline will be considered for participation. Those who are interested can contact Dr. Livingston’s office at 624-6300 or superintendent@mansd.org.

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