Many older Boston Public Schools students are faced with the challenge of balancing school while having to work. For Elian, a student at Boston Day and Evening Academy, sometimes this meant that work had to come first. After briefly leaving school last year, Elian returned to class and was matched with Nathaniel, a mentor in our ILS program, at the suggestion of his teacher.

“I really do need to commend him for trying to juggle both and going back to school and navigating that, because I can’t imagine how difficult that is,” said Nathaniel.

The son of a teacher, Nathaniel heard first-hand how challenging the remote school year had become for students and educators, and wanted to get involved. “I knew that I wanted to work with high school kids,” Nathaniel explained. “And then the fact that there was a virtual offering was appealing to me, because I don’t think I would be able to carve out that much time otherwise.”

The pair began working together on Elian’s financial literacy classwork – and soon Nathaniel was helping him apply his academics to the real world. They discussed taxes, how to open a bank account, and overdraft fees. As the year progressed, Elian’s teacher Ms. Hallisey noticed an increase in his participation. Having Nathaniel show up and build a connection inspired Elian to work harder.

“During this crazy school year, it was a highlight for Elian to have an outside connection to another human that supported his academic efforts,” said Ms. Hallisey. “Nathaniel and Elian had rich conversations that connected to the work but also inspired Elian to explore career fields.”

As the school year wound down, Elian and Nathaniel turned their attention to the work that had been missed earlier in the year. “When we were approaching the end of the academic year, there were some concerns that he wasn’t going to be able to finish the course because of the outstanding assignments,” Nathaniel explained. The pair responded by setting up extra meetings, determined to make up the additional assignments.

“I saw the amount of work that Elian put in,” recalls Nathaniel. “He was really grinding through and he was able to complete everything at the end of the year. I was really proud of him. To see that and to see the dedication there – that was a very, very fulfilling experience for me, to play a small part in that.”

This year, their story continues. When the new school year began, Elian didn’t wait for a teacher’s suggestion – he asked Nathaniel to return as his mentor himself! They continue to meet every week, building on their summer success as Elian works toward his graduation.

According to MENTOR National, young people with a mentor are 52% less likely to skip a day of school, 78% more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities, and 130% more likely to hold a leadership position in a club or sports team. 

Currently, Boston Partners in Education is serving over 600 Boston Public Schools students but there are still over 150 students waiting to be matched with a mentor in-person. If you are interested in becoming a mentor to a BPS student in a classroom, National Mentoring Month is the perfect time to get involved. Become an academic mentor today!