Academic Mentoring Program

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a mentor for a student in middle school?

“The Academic Mentor Program (AMP) is a mentoring program between 21 Sacred Heart University undergraduate students and 28 John Winthrop Middle School students, grades six to eight. This mentor program provides both academic support and social support for middle school youth,” said program coordinator Jillian Rigby.

Founded in 2001 by the Jones Zimmermann Foundation, the AMP allows college students to become mentors to middle school students down the street in Bridgeport, Conn., according to the Academic Mentoring Program page on the Sacred Heart website.

Sacred Heart students are to provide these young students with exposure to the possibilities within learning and higher levels of education. The program is not all student-run, however; it’s also supported by faculty and administration at Sacred Heart.

 “My position includes managing the undergraduate mentors, middle school mentees, being a liaison between SHU, John Winthrop teachers, and mentee’s parents,” said Rigby. “I create and implement enrichment (social activities after tutoring) for mentees and monthly mentor training.”

As for the program’s mentors, they are expected to make a minimum of a full year commitment but are strongly encouraged to mentor for two years in order to strengthen the mentee and mentor relationship. They are also expected to dedicate around four hours or (two hrs. x two days) per week working with two students after school from 2:30-4:30 p.m. normally. Mentors should be very academically stable in their college career by having at least a 3.0 GPA and also should have at least some experience working with children prior to participating in the AMP.

“SHU students can get involved by applying to be an AMP mentor. This position has a requirement of attending AMP twice a week for the academic year. Students can reach out to the Office of Volunteer Programs and Service Learning for more information,” said Rigby.

Once mentors are selected, they are paid $10 every AMP session attended with their students. They also attend a training session in the beginning of the semester and participate in AMP activities the program has planned out for them and their students.

An average AMP day is around two hours long. It is usually broken down by four major activities: homework assistance, which normally lasts an hour, a 10-minute snack time, some sort of recreation for 20 minutes, and finally, a customized learning activity for about a half hour.

According to the Academic Mentoring Program page on the Sacred Heart website, the program also offers some field trips each semester free of charge. Some local places include the Jones Family Farm, SkyZone, Sacred Heart basketball games and an annual 8th grade New York City Broadway trip. Since COVID-19 hit last year, it has changed plans for a lot of the program and has made it more difficult to take the students on some of these trips.

“SHU students can first apply for this mentoring position in the spring of their freshman year, to begin mentoring in the fall of the following year,” said Rigby. “This is a year-long commitment and students can renew their mentoring position annually for a total of three years of being an AMP Mentor. Students are also welcome to apply even if they are not a current freshman.”  

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