Hartford, Conn. – A Trinity College mentoring program for Hartford Magnet Middle School (HMMS) students is proving its worth. Recently released statistics suggest that the Jones-Zimmermann Academic Mentoring Program, formerly known as the Vision Academic Mentoring Program, is significantly contributing to the academic achievement of its participating students and their pursuit of higher education. The first cohort of the Jones-Zimmermann Program at Trinity College reports an impressive high school graduation rate of 82 percent, with 87 percent of those graduates enrolled in college.
Ryan Shapiro, Trinity class of 2010, and Hartford Magnet Middle
School student Eddie Rosado, 12, at the Jones-Zimmermann Academic
Out of twenty-seven students from the original cohort in 2001, twenty-two, or 82 percent of the group, have graduated from high school. Of those twenty-two, nineteen, or 70 percent are now registered in college. The status of four students from the original cohort is unknown at this time. These figures are of particular significance considering the academic standing of those selected for the program, as its purpose is to give underachieving students an opportunity to meet, and excel beyond standard academic expectations.
The Jones-Zimmermann Academic Mentoring Program was initiated in 2001 through the generous funding support of the Marie & John Zimmermann Fund, which recently awarded Trinity an $80,000 grant for continued support of the program. The Fund sponsors similar programs at two other Connecticut colleges, including Yale University and Sacred Heart University where the Foundation is realizing similar results through its mentoring programs. The program at Sacred Heart reports 88 percent of its 35 students graduated high school, twelve of which are college bound and six percent of which are unknown.
In 2004, a Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education compiled a report in response to falling high school and college graduation rates in Hartford. The report, which can be found on Hartford.gov, recommended that the city find ways to “provide diverse social, academic and career-related experiences through challenging interactions beyond the schools, and to provide comprehensive counseling focusing on the expectations that all students are going to college, peer tutoring, support and mentoring that includes the exploration of college life."
The Jones-Zimmermann program is a prime example of the potential benefits from this kind of interaction. The Program identifies an underachieving cohort of 6th grade students who commit to participating for three years - spanning their entire middle school experience - and makes a commitment in return to challenge the students to reach their full academic potential. The most recent cohort of middle school mentees, which started with the 2007-2008 academic year, numbered 35 and is representative of the demand of the Program, the commitment of the Zimmermann Fund and the Trinity mentors, and the growing need for such initiatives in Hartford.
Trinity students provide their middle school partners with homework help, mentoring, and learning enrichment activities in after-school hours. All tutorial materials, services, and extra-curricular activities are free to the students. Outside of homework help and creative projects, the groups take periodic Saturday field-trips to museums, zoos, the cinema, science centers, bowling, and roller- or ice-skating rinks, among other extracurricular events to promote the positive mentor/mentee relationships.
“Our goals are not only to foster academic achievement of Hartford Magnet Middle School students, but to encourage them to consider continuing their education beyond the secondary level,” Romulus Perez, program coordinator, said. “Through academic support, enrichment activities, and social interaction between Trinity and these students, we hope to achieve those goals.”
According to Perez, the children are not just exposed to the idea of college through the Program, but given physical access to the Trinity campus, providing an inside view of what the college experience is all about. Perez said the Program does this by allowing and encouraging mentors to take students on campus to tour facilities, eat lunch in the dining hall, attend sporting events, or take in one of Trinity’s many arts events which are open to the community. Perez is working to arrange the opportunity for students to shadow their mentors in actual classes next year. According to Perez, the statistics would argue in favor of this kind of exposure.
“The numbers are a testament to the ground work laid down by our mentors,” Perez said. “Some kids at that age have already decided that they will not pursue education beyond high school, so we give them a glimpse of the college experience, and by working with college students, [the children] realize that going to college is achievable.”
The impact of the program was evident from the start, and to meet the anticipated demand the following year, Trinity opened a sibling version created under the same precepts to supplement the opportunities provided at after-school help sessions. The Rising Stars Program at Trinity College serves an additional 37 HMMS students to meet that increased demand.
Claudia Cruz-Reis, an eighth grade teacher at HMMS, is the school liaison for both the Jones-Zimmermann program and Rising Stars, and is responsible for coordinating communication between mentors and school staff. Cruz-Reis said that if it were not for these programs, many of the children would not be able to keep up with their homework.
“The students have someone to lead them through questions,” she said. “That makes it hard for them to just give up.”
Trinity College has long been an advocate of supporting academic achievement among Hartford children, financially and otherwise. Trinity’s direct investment in community programs, including financial aid for Hartford students attending Trinity, is approximately $2 million annually.
For more information about the Program, contact Romulus Ferrer Pérez, Program Coordinator, Rising Stars & Jones-Zimmermann Academic Mentoring Program, at 860.297.2160 or by email at Romulus.Perez@trincoll.edu.