September 8, 2010 – The Boys & Girls Clubs of Syracuse BE GREAT: Graduate Program launches on October 1, 2010 when our After School Program begins. BE GREAT: Graduate is a youth mentorship program to promote high school graduation among those of our Club Members who are most at-risk of dropping out.

The Clubs will enroll 60 members in the 4th through 8th grades, who meet selected background criteria indicating high risk for dropping out. Clubs Staff and community volunteers will serve as mentors, meeting weekly with members for the next two years.

The Clubs are seeking volunteer mentors of all backgrounds throughout the greater Syracuse community. Mentors will meet at the Club, one-on-one with their assigned member, for 1-2 hours a week to address individual concerns, focusing primarily on academic engagement, positive extracurricular opportunities, basic coping strategies, and planning for the future.

The program addresses pressing challenges in our community. Only 29.3% of students in the Syracuse City School District (SCSD) graduate from high school (the national average is 68.8%); 30% of those who do graduate had fallen behind at least one year. Each year, high school dropouts in the United States forfeit more than $300 billion in future income that they could have earned if they had graduated, about $10,000 per dropout per year. As President Obama says, “75% of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet…we have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation.” Furthermore, 1/3 of dropouts are lost in the 9th grade, transitioning into high school. So BE GREAT: Graduate targets middle-school students to ensure they progress through the 9th grade, instilling necessary skills and strategies for graduation.

Kirby Dar Dar, the Unit Director of the East Fayette Street Club, encourages all members of the community to volunteer to be a mentor. “If you have been a parent, if you have mentored a colleague at work, or if you simply have the will to mentor one of our youth, we want to partner with you.” He adds, “And we want you to know that we will be here to support you by sharing our resources and knowledge as much as we can.”

“We believe community mentors will find the time fits easily into their schedule,” says Max Currier, a Staff volunteer and a program coordinator. “More importantly, I believe they will find—as I have—that working with one of these kids is genuinely rewarding and fulfilling.” Mentors will attend an afternoon orientation session in late September.

The program will also run during the Clubs Summer Program, enrolling new members each year as older members complete the program. We will partner with parents, teachers, and other community organizations to coordinate and maximize the impact of our resources. The BE GREAT: Graduate program is a national initiative of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which provides funding for implementing the program in Syracuse.

If you are interested in mentoring, registering your middle-school student, or receiving more information, please contact Max Currier at 315-289-2361 or Kirby Dar Dar at 315-472-6727 or kdardar@bgcsyracuse.org. You can also stop by our East Fayette Street Club at 2100 East Fayette Street, Syracuse, NY 13224.

*Data from Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Education Week EPE Research Center, Graduation Rates Map (www.edweek.org/apps/maps); and the Alliance for Excellent Education (www.all4ed.org).