Mentoring - A Critical Component for Postsecondary Success

Author: Karla Robles, Chief Strategy Officer, Be A Leader Foundation

January 2, 2017

January is national mentoring month and many of Helios' partners provide critical mentoring services to help students on the path toward college and career readiness.  Be A Leader is one of those partners.  Below, Chief Strategy Officer, Karla Robles, shares how Be A Leader is working to help more students prepare for success in postsecondary education.

As we celebrate national mentoring month, we are reminded of the importance of embracing the fact that we each have something to contribute to the success of OUR students. It is critical that we as a community commit to a shared responsibility for the success of EVERY student and continue to expand the definition of who OUR students are.  They are not only the children we are blessed to call our own, those in our extended families, or even those in our neighborhoods. OUR students are the over 1.6 million children growing up in Arizona today!

Be A Leader is mindful of the fact that the students we are honored to serve each and every day will succeed because of the efforts of an entire village.  Our job is not to brand our students as Be A Leader kids, but instead, surround them with resources that will successfully carry them into and through their postsecondary journeys.  The most important of these resources is by far the countless individuals who have taken on the important role of mentors making it possible for Be A Leader to serve over 3,400 students each year.

Our mentors are:

  • Teachers who stay after school because they’re the Be A Leader Club advisor so that their students can meet and continue to move the college-going movement forward on their campus.
  • Engineers, Nurses, Lawyers, and even Entrepreneurs who have signed on as Senior Boot Camp coaches to help guide students through the college and scholarship application process.
  • College students and Be A Leader alumni who spend their Saturdays motivating our middle school and high school students, proving to them that if they work hard their potential is limitless!
  • Our Be A Leader staff who have a relentless devotion to investing in “every student” with a “whatever-it-takes” mentality and whole heartedly embrace our motto that working for Be A Leader is not a job, it’s a lifestyle!

While our programs are open to any student, close to 80% of the students we serve live in some of the most economically depressed areas of the valley and attend the Phoenix Union High School District  (PUHSD) or one of its thirteen feeder districts.  We are absolutely committed to the PUHSD and for the past year we have been honored to be a part of the ASU NextGen collaborative initially convened by Helios Education Foundation. The collaborative came together to understand the factors that impact whether or not a student who has been accepted to a university actually enrolls at the institution come the fall semester after high school graduation. 

With the support of Helios Education Foundation we embarked on a summer melt initiative this past summer where grant activities were broken down into three main categories (i.e. case management model, summer transition workshops, and planning for the 2016-2017 school year).  The case management approach and workshops were specifically meant to target the over 1,000 PUHSD students who had been accepted to ASU and help them:
1)    Complete and submit their FAFSA
2)    Submit an enrollment deposit
3)    Enroll at ASU for the Fall of 2016

Also included in our work was a concentrated effort to engage counselors and other PUHSD staff to ultimately determine what resources were needed to help increase things like FAFSA Completion, College applications, and postsecondary enrollment for the district. The same process was followed to bring together over 15 different community organizations that were working with the PUHSD and introduce them to the strategies being developed by the collaborative.

After reviewing enrollment numbers at ASU for the PUHSD Class of 2016 we were able to see a 25% increase from the year prior for a total of 514 enrolled students! 

We have come to realize that while we are allocating an abundance of resources to have students complete critical tasks in the postsecondary application process, once these have been completed, there are few added support services to guide students into college. This has left us with hundreds (if not thousands) of students who have ACT scores, applied to college and completed the FAFSA but who have failed to enroll at a postsecondary institution following high school graduation. 

The success and lessons learned from our summer melt initiative led us to create a three year proof of concept consisting of a matriculation curriculum that supports students from the beginning of their senior year through postsecondary enrollment the following fall semester. This 12-month initiative will focus on meeting individually with PUHSD seniors to complete tasks we have deemed as critical to ensuring matriculation, further proving that the one-on-one mentoring/coaching model is effective and critical to the success of these students. We want to thank Helios Education Foundation for funding this effort and for their continued dedication to OUR students! We look forward to sharing the success of this initiative in the near future!

If you would like to learn more about how you can personally contribute to the educational success of OUR students or learn more about the Be A Leader Foundation, please contact us at

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