Jasmine (left) Isaiah (center) and Esthela work together in the Vista Community Clinic Step Up mentoring program. Esthela is a junior mentor from a local high school. Courtesy photo

Summer mentoring program looks to instill life skills

OCEANSIDE — The Vista Community Clinic Step Up mentoring program will start up for summer July 2. The program has been held for three years. 

During the school year, trained adult volunteers mentor high school students, and in turn high school students in the program mentor middle school and elementary students under the guidance of adults.

“Adults mentor small groups of one to three,” Maria Yanez, youth development programs manager, said. “High school students mentor middle school and elementary school students one-on-one or one-to-two, depending on the needs of the mentee.”

Students are also directed to after school tutoring programs, and staff makes home visits to connect students’ parents with food assistance programs, medical services, and other basic family needs.

In the summer session high school students will meet early in the day with their adult mentors, and then mentor middle school students later in the day at the same site.

Vista Community Clinic works with schools to identify at-risk students who can benefit from the program.

The goal of the program is to coach kids to success, truth, education, a positive attitude, understanding and self-esteem through life skill lessons and team building.

Life skills lessons address drug and alcohol awareness and prevention, conflict resolution and connecting with school and community.

Students are also guided in career preparation and how to gain admittance to trade schools, colleges and universities.

Yanez said the results of the program have been very successful. Most students in the program have graduated high school and many have gone on to college.

“We have great adult mentors,” Yanez said. “There is a large group of high school graduates who have completed the program, gone on to college, and want to volunteer this summer.”

Yanez added that the program instills noticeable confidence and leadership in students.

“One high school student said that after working with middle school students they feel like a role model now who can pass things on to generations behind them,” she said.

There is concern that vanishing funding will not allow the program to continue this fall. The program is presently funded through the Office of Juvenile Justice and grant funds from the Gang Resistance and Prevention Project. Most funding runs out at the end of this summer.

Yanez said staff is brainstorming ways to continue the program that costs about $150,000 a year to run. They may be able to continue as part of already existing programs. Home visits will likely be cut and it is uncertain how they will fund student transportation.

“We believe very strongly in the program,” Yanez said. “Despite the cuts, we’re very committed.”

For more information on the Step Up program, go to vistacommunityclinic.org.