For more than 25 years, College Bound has been working to send public and public charter school students in the D.C. metro area to college and meet their personal and professional goals. But now the program needs mentors to help support their mission and possible expansion.
The program, which currently operates beyond its 200-student capacity to serve about 210 students and still has a waiting list, needs an additional 20 mentors to eliminate mentor sharing and to reduce the wait list.
College Bound Executive Director Kenneth Ward said the program is all about the one-on-one mentoring experience.
“Every kid is being mentored, some kids just have good mentors,” Ward said.
He said the mentoring College Bound students receive gives them social and academic preparation for college.
Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie encouraged his residents to get involved with programs such as College Bound that support young people after learning about their need for mentors during a vigil for one of the program’s students who had been murdered during an attempted robbery.
“In Washington, D.C. — the city with the largest rate of residents with college degrees in the entire country — we have more kids interested in college than adults that will help them achieve that dream,” McDuffie wrote in a newsletter to constituents.
Training is simple: Mentors are required to undergo a training and orientation process that acclimates them to the program and prepares them to work with students free of implicit bias, which totals about four hours.
In addition to attending the program’s weekly two-hour sessions at one of its seven site locations in the city, where they assist mentees in the college application process, mentors are also mandated to do one extra-curricular activity with their student a month.
Ninety-five percent of the students are African-American, and 40 percent are first-generation college students, but Ward said the six-year graduation rate for his students is “on par” with the national average of White students, about 60 percent.
Nationally, for Black students, that rate is about 45 percent and in the District, it is less than 25 percent.
Camone Mullins, 13, a ninth-grader, is working with her mentor and former College Bound student Brea Govani to bring her dreams of a career in international affairs to life.
“I want to go to college for free, no loans,” Mullins said.
Her mother, Crystal Bolin, appreciates the help.
“Brea has become like a family member,” Bolin said. “I am lost [in the college application process] and it will take a village to get [Camone] to college, and her mentor is a part of that village.
Brea said her own experience in the program, with a virtual mentor throughout college, encouraged her to come back.
“It’s a professional and fun relationship,” she said. “[College Bound] gives students someone not as old as parents, but not as young as their peers to talk to.”
Though the program is struggling to attract mentors, Cristin Ellis, the site coordinator for the program’s Sherwood Recreation Center site, said engaging students has never been a challenge.
“Attendance is not really an issue,” Ellis said. “This program is so invaluable, and you really are only going to get [the benefits of the program] if you attend, and I think [students] know that.”
Ellis, a former student in the program, also helped to bring the program to her church, Walker Memorial Baptist Church in Northwest.
Annually, the program awards about $150,000 in scholarships and uses about 350 volunteers to coordinate its supplemental biweekly tutoring programs, college networking events and college tours.
The program is looking to expand to three or four additional sites, but they face financial and recruiting challenges that limit their ability to expand. The expansion would require at least an additional 80 mentors.
“Some people can give their time, some people can give their tithe. We need both.” Ward said.