The Dalles High School is looking for mentors willing to help juniors and seniors plan for their next steps after graduation.
The ASPIRE program pairs mentors with one or more students to help them line up plans ranging from the military to trade school to college.
ASPIRE stands for Access to Student Assistance Programs in Reach of Everyone.
Mentors can help students figure out what they’d like to do, and then help them pursue that path, said Elaine Powrie, an independent admissions consultant who has been hired this year by the high school to help with the ASPIRE program part time. Jeannie Nelson at the high school is the ASPIRE coordinator.
This year, 35 seniors and 10 juniors are signed up for ASPIRE. Mentors help them with financial aid forms, college admissions, seeking scholarships, and the essays needed for scholarships and admissions, Powrie said.
The school has about nine mentors, but Powrie would like to double that, if possible.
“An important thing to note is that mentors don’t need to have any experience,” she said. “We train them and they don’t have to have gone to college themselves.”
Volunteers need to fill out a volunteer application and have a background check done by the high school. “Otherwise, they just have to have an interest in working with high school students. We want people that are reliable and consistent and enthusiastic. That’s the only requirements of a mentor.”
“ASPIRE mentors are like coaches or cheerleaders, we’re there to encourage students,” she said. “We’re not doing the work for them but we’re asking them to figure out their path after high school.”
Some mentors work with as many as six kids, and others work with just one. Two or three mentors have four kids each, and Powrie and Nelson each mentor about 10 kids.
The number of kids each mentor helps is “whatever the comfort level of the mentor is and how much time they have,” Powrie said.
Mentors come to the high school for about an hour a week, but are welcome to do more. They meet with students in the ASPIRE room, which is next door to the career center. “It’s actually a great space in there, very nice, very welcoming.”
Powrie trains the volunteers, which takes a few hours, and she usually works alongside them and has them listen in while she’s meeting with a student so they can get comfortable with the process.
“The ASPIRE mentors that get into it want to do it year after year because it’s so rewarding, and the kids are so appreciative of the help they get,” she said.
Those interested in becoming an ASPIRE mentor can call Nelson at 541-506-3449 ext. 2017, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email Powrie at email@example.com.
The ASPIRE program can also be found on Facebook at “The Dalles High School Aspire.”