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Mentors Help High School Students Work to Boost Grades

By Wendell Hutson | April 10, 2014 8:14am
 Students at John Hope College Prep received mentoring and academic advice April 9, 2014 from volunteers with the nonprofit Diplomas Now.
John Hope College Prep
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ENGLEWOOD — For the second year, students at John Hope College Prep received mentoring from volunteers about how to improve their grades.

And students at Hope, 5515 S. Lowe St., said the help they received Wednesday from members of the nonprofit Diplomas Now, was encouraging, useful and inspiring.

“It was helpful to meet with these mentors,” said Keala Lightfoot, 16. “I always like listening to people when giving me ways to improve myself especially if they are not judgmental.”

Antonio Sowell, 17, said he received a lot of encouragement from his mentor.

“She told me I can do better in chemistry and geometry and I believe her,” Sowell said. “Sometimes I think I know everything but now I realize I don’t.”

In addition to Chicago, Diplomas Now partners with 40 schools in 14 cities, including New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. And students at Gage Park High School also received mentoring this week from Diplomas Now.

Greg Ekey, field manager for Diplomas Now, said the purpose of visiting schools was to ensure that every student has the support needed to improve in the classroom.

"Working with administrators and teachers, a Diplomas Now team organizes and supports schools to strengthen achievement and engagement," Ekey said. "And Diplomas Now also provides curriculum, teacher coaching and student support."

Students at Hope, a charter school with 337 students, said they were grateful the mentors came to their school for a second straight year.

This marking period Terriungha Dobson, 16, received all A's and now has a 4.0 GPA.

"As you can see I had an excellent report card. It does not get any better than all A's," Dobson said. "But they did more than talk about our grades. We talked about stuff like social media, bad influences and stuff that was real helpful."

Lonya Harris, 15, said she would like to see Diplomas Now in all schools, especially the "bad schools."

"Everybody could use a little extra help and for some students they may not be able to get that at home," added Harris, who hopes to go college and study to become a criminal investigator.

Other students like, George Franklin, 15, learned more about requirements to graduate.

“My mentor pointed out that I have 15 service-learning hours and 10 1/2 credits toward graduation,” Franklin said. “I did not know I needed 40 service-learning hours and 24 credits to graduate, but now I know."

Franklin added that while his report card was "decent" he said he could have done better had he studied more.

“I work at McDonald’s so sometimes when I work late I don’t feel like studying when I get home,” Franklin said.

But some students said they did not do well this marking period. Dantrell Blake is a 17-year-old junior who said he received a D in Algebra and an F in environmental science.

“I had an issue with my attendance this marking period and that contributed to me not passing one of my classes,” Blake said. “I missed in school because I stayed out too late. And sometimes I don’t have a bus card so I have to walk to school and when it was cold outside I did not want to do that long walk.''

Junior Steve Harris said he earned a 3.2 GPA even though he got a D in AP Trigonometry.

“Trig ain’t no joke! I have got to study harder this marking period if I want to bring my grade up,” said Harris. "My mentor suggested I get a tutor and I think she is right.”

Volunteers for the one-day event included employees from Quaker Oats Co.

Sarah Elliott, a Lincoln Square resident, said it's important that students get feedback from an adult other than a parent.

Erica Miller, a senior finance manager for Quaker Oats, looks forward to returning next year.

"I volunteered because I wanted to give back to a community in need,” said Miller, a Lakeview resident. “This volunteer effort also provided students with role models, which you can never get enough of.”

And Philip Skrzypek, an Edgewater resident, said more companies should get involved with organizations that give back to students like Diplomas Now.

“I enjoyed helping the students figure out ways to improve their school work next marking period,” Skrzypek said. “For some students like our young men it was about exposing them to a professional behavior like shaking hands when you meet someone for the firs time and giving eye contact when talking to someone.”