Achievement House Blog

Mentor Spotlight 31720

AHCCS Mentors: Your Personal Support System

Julia DeBald

Here at Achievement House Cyber Charter School, we pride ourselves on offering multiple ways for your student to receive the one-on-one support they deserve. When it comes to our mentor program, only excellent service is provided to students and their families. Every child at AHCCS is given a mentor to help them thrive both academically and personally. Director of the Mentoring Department, Mrs. Kristina Botes, shares the goal of every mentor is to support students and their families so that their experience at AHCCS is positive.  

We offer home visits and regular virtual check-ins for students that need more individualized attention, while other students need someone to push them to do their best or help them organize what they should get done each day,” Mrs. Botes says. “We also have quite a few students who just need someone to be there in case they have a question or need help. The mission statement of the mentoring department is and will always be to help students be successful at AHCCS.

As Mrs. Botes explained, what the mentors specifically do changes from student to student since each child is so unique. For 9th grade Mentor Mrs. Cassie Valvo, her days are filled with the lives of her mentees! She learns who her students are as people which allows her to understand how to best support them. She reaches out to the students and their families through phone calls, texts, emails, online messaging, one-on-one online help sessions to complete work, and home visits to give a face-to-face connection and develop plans for new and struggling students. She even mails out personal birthday, get-well, sympathy and thinking of you cards to her students, all while training to become trauma-informed and culturally aware of the sensitive needs of our population.

All these factors along with my relationships with students allow me to develop individual strategies for success,” Mrs. Valvo says. “The key at AHCCS is connection, and as a mentor, that is what I find enriches and enhances the student experience at our school. What I offer my mentees and families is a personal, meaningful support person. I develop and monitor student assignment plans when they are behind and offer progress updates by regularly reviewing student’s grades, attendance, participation, and reports from teachers.

Like her colleague Mrs. Valvo, EL Mentor Mrs. Kathleen Gonzalez feels that two-way communication is key when connecting with a new family. After welcoming students and their parents to the school, she reaches out to introduce herself and discuss their schedule and live classes. Next, she sets goals with the family, discusses expectations for the year and encourages them to keep weekly communication with her. She feels that a mentor’s job is to meet student’s needs while supporting them and their families. 

I always let them know that they’re important while developing a meaningful and respectful relationship,” Mrs. Gonzalez says. “I love to praise students for every success they complete, and when a goal or expectation is not met, I’ll motivate them. We focus on how and what we need to do to improve, or how I can help them get on a track to success. Finally, I’ll continue to tell students that hard work really does pay off.

Another unique benefit of our mentor program is the fact that each mentor is only dedicated to one grade level. 12th grade Mentor Mrs. Cheryl Kern explains that the beauty of this system is that mentors learn that grade level so well. That way, they become an expert in what the students need during that year of schooling. 

Every grade and age have a different approach, different factors in what helps them succeed, and different important events to focus on,” Mrs. Kern says. “Since our Guidance Department is also devoted to grade levels, our mentors and guidance counselors work closely as a team for each grade, focusing specifically on what those students need. Lastly, our school staff is grouped into teams by grade level, so mentors get to know our teaching staff very well and can collaborate easily to support our students.

Our mentors also strive to understand what their students and families may need even outside of school. For 11th grade Mentor Mrs. Shana Harris, staying connected with students and families, accessing local resources and networking within various communities across the state help minimize the worry of if she’s doing all she can to help. Her colleague, 7th and 8th grade Mentor Ms. Ruthy Thomas, feels that the success stories are abundant as a result of the mentors going above and beyond. Her greatest successes consist of helping families feel more capable and confident about their tech skills and our school’s technology. 

I sometimes get parents and guardians on the phone that want to be able to support their students but don't know how due to struggling with technology.” Ms. Thomas says. “By providing quick tutorials and supporting tools and resources, they’re able to gain a better understanding of how to help their student and monitor their progress. Some even conquer their fear of technology, which is a huge success for me because I cannot do what I do without parent and guardian involvement or support.

As you can see, building more than just a relationship with students and their families comes with the job title of being a mentor. 10th grade Mentor Mrs. Amy Kendrick shows her students how much she cares by putting their needs first, something she believes is the gateway for students having positive outcomes academically as well as all other areas of their lives. She has seen firsthand how meeting students where they are helps them to grow socially, emotionally and academically. Her colleague, Engagement Coach Ms. Emlyn Degannes, agrees that the initial contact with a student is vital in opening the doors for trust and dialogue. Having empathy, seeking solutions, and truly listening to what students need all help her stay true to her mission of being 100% focused on the education of our students. 

Being a mentor is in alignment with my soul’s work, so being transparent is another part of mentoring that I value,” Ms. Degannes says. “I continue to learn more about myself from the students and how to be of service to them and their families while extending benevolence to others daily. Showing up for others is also showing up for yourself, so when reciprocity is in effect, what you give you will also receive. Most importantly, I understand the students are the mirrors to self-growth and assist us in becoming stronger mentors.

Thank you AHCCS mentors, for all you do to support our students and families! We appreciate you!