The Future Of Our Mentoring Programs

Since the onset of the public health crisis brought on by COVID-19, Boston Partners in Education has aligned its response with the needs of the Boston Public Schools and greater school community. In speaking with our partners, it’s clear that our schools and their students need and want virtual mentoring support.

This spring, we piloted a virtual mentoring opportunity with our partners at Boston Public Schools’ High School to Teacher program (HSTT) – a district-wide pathway program for BPS high school students to become the teachers of tomorrow. We were able to match 20 of our trained volunteers with HSTT’s students, providing extra academic support to those students who requested it. The HSTT partnership will help inform our approach to academic mentoring this fall and beyond. 

Because our primary concern remains the health and safety of our students, teachers, and volunteers, we’re continuing to work with educators and the BPS central office to identify how best to transition all of our programs into virtual mentoring opportunities. 

Regardless of the classroom format, we’re committed to providing students with mentoring support in 2020-21, but we recognize the likelihood that the pandemic’s effects may prevent in-class support from taking place. At present, we’re operating under the assumption that all academic mentoring in the upcoming school year will occur in a virtual setting.

For questions about our COVID-19 response or our virtual mentoring programs, please email or call (617) 451-6145.

Status of In-Class Learning in Boston

Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Education released guidelines on required safety supplies for re-opening schools, including some of the minimum protocols that will be implemented next school year. In addition to enforcing six feet of social distancing between students and school staff, the Department is suggesting that programs isolate individual groups of students with one consistently assigned teacher, and that groups should not mix with other students or staff.

While not explicitly stated in the guidelines, it appears unlikely that volunteers or other guests will be allowed into school buildings to begin the 2020-21 school year. What this means is that schools are sure to rely on virtual learning resources, at least in the short term – and so will the future of mentoring. Classrooms will look very different in September, but we’ll be ready. You can join us by applying to become a virtual mentor HERE

What We’re Doing Now

The Boston Public Schools have already asked us to commit to increasing our capacity to serve the growing number of students who will need academic and social-emotional support next year. To help meet the increased demand for our mentoring services, we’re:

  • Reframing our training to provide more support around how to communicate with students safely and effectively over Zoom and Google Hangouts. These are the preferred platforms for the Boston Public Schools, so we’ve updated our materials to reflect their guidelines on how to use them.
  • Moving our interview process online, including an investment in making sure that all of our forms can be submitted electronically.
  • Shifting our focus to digital outreach and exploring new recruitment avenues online that will allow us to expand our volunteer pool

The biggest change, however, will be in how we expect our volunteers to perform their academic mentoring. While we still believe in the power of face-to-face interactions, we’re moving our programs online to comply with social distancing regulations. We hope that by pivoting our programs to a virtual mentoring experience, this will not only satisfy the increased demand from Boston Public Schools, but also address the underlying needs of the many students who need our help. Thank you for supporting our work during this critical time – we couldn’t restructure our mentoring programs without you.

More information on COVID-19

For more information on COVID-19, please consult the following resources: