Then and now
The Incentive Mentoring Program engages underperforming high school students confronting significant barriers outside of the classroom by providing each one with a “family” of committed volunteers and increased access to community resources. Since 2004, it has grown from Hemminger and another volunteer co-founder working with 15 students to over 500 volunteers and five paid staff working with 95 students. The program has also expanded to two sites.
“We’ve retained 100 percent of the students and 100 percent have graduated from high school or received a GED,” Hemminger says. “100 percent have been accepted to college and 97 percent have matriculated.”
Challenge of sustainability
Each student in the program has a family of volunteers, overseen by what Hemminger calls a “head of household” who leads, coordinates and motivates the family. This structure is essential to the model.
“The most challenging thing about sustainability and/or growth is really that we can’t just have amazing volunteers, we also have to exemplary volunteer leaders,” Hemminger says. “We have to have leaders who are committed and capable of leading teams.”
OSI-Baltimore has helped
“One of the things that OSI has really helped us with is finding the right people who are good match for our family. And our staff family is incredible,” Hemminger says. “OSI has helped us to identify great leaders who might be a potential fit. I received the fellowship at a critical juncture, deciding whether I would follow a career in science or if I would try to follow my passion,” Hemminger says. “And the fellowship helped me follow my desire to make the Incentive Mentoring Program my life’s work.”
Hemminger will use the grant to coordinate an extensive program evaluation and revamp the internal tracking system that supports mentors, volunteers and students. The program is poised to become a national model for transforming high school students who are struggling in and out of school into resilient, self-motivated, responsible citizens.
“Now is a good time to deconstruct what key components are the norms in a successful Incentive Mentoring Program family and what it takes to nurture the key components that we want, so that we can grow and take on more students,” Hemminger says. “Being able to do a process evaluation now, to tease that apart, will have a huge impact on future growth and future success.”
“We’ve grown a ton. So our focus for the next six months is quality. We recently had a big event, where we invited other organizations doing similar work and had brainstorming sessions as to how we could all improve our programs. We learned so much. Now we are focused on program improvement and maintaining the high quality of relationships within the families.”