Program aims to increase postsecondary enrollment and shrink skills gap
January 9, 2019 – Today, Mayor Joe Hogsett and Indy Achieves announced a new program aimed at recruiting mentors to engage with, support, and inspire Marion County students in order to ensure high school graduation and a successful transition into college. The Indy Achieves Mentor Program will also connect mentors with adults who have graduated from high school and are working to attain a postsecondary degree or certification. As part of the announcement, Morales Group pledged to sign on as a premier volunteer partner, initially enrolling 10 employees to mentor 50 students.
“Postsecondary education can be daunting for any student,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett. “That’s why Indy Achieves is seeking to provide millions of dollars in scholarships and grants to low-income students, helping to lower barriers and increase the number of Marion County residents qualified for the jobs of the 21st century. I’m calling on community leaders to become a mentor today and support the next generation as they seek a brighter future for themselves and their family.”
Indy Achieves is a comprehensive program established by Mayor Hogsett to ensure every Indianapolis resident has a pathway to a postsecondary credential or degree. The mentoring initiative will connect 500 high school seniors with 100 civic and business leaders from around the city. Over the next year, Indy Achieves, which is housed at EmployIndy, will work to provide millions of dollars in scholarships and grants to low-income students in order to close the skills gap. This work is in conjunction with EmployIndy’s ongoing efforts to train Indianapolis residents and place them in high-wage, high-demand jobs in Marion County. Indianapolis needs an additional 215,000 individuals with job-ready credentials in order to close the skills gap by 2027.
“At a time when we’re telling Hoosiers that education beyond high school is more important than ever, we must ensure that they are prepared and can afford it,” said Indiana’s Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers. “Indy Achieves addresses both of these issues and complements the work we do at the Commission.”
“Research tells us that one of the greatest predictors of postsecondary success is the ability of a student to name a mentor in his or her life. Unfortunately, one in three students grow up without a mentor of any kind,” said Matt Impink, executive director of Indy Achieves. “At Indy Achieves, we will equip dedicated volunteer leaders in our community with not only the tools and resources they need to ensure students remain on task and meet deadlines, but also the platform to cheer students on towards success.”
Indy Achieves cites “summer melt” as one of the reasons this program is needed. Research finds that one in five college-bound high school graduates who have been accepted to and intend to enroll in college fail to show up on the first day of class due to unforeseen challenges they encounter during the summer months. This jumps to two in five students in underserved areas. For this reason, the mentor program begins during a senior student’s spring semester and runs through his or her first semester of college, helping them navigate not only the processes needed to enroll in college, but helping them get settled and get off to a solid start.
The time commitment for mentors is low, requiring only one hour per month for 10 months to change the lives of youth and adults in Marion County. Mentors assist students in their move to higher education at either Ivy Tech Community College or IUPUI through both scripted and customized text-message and email-based communication from Indy Achieves. Examples of messages include reminders about FAFSA deadlines, answering questions students and their families may have regarding postsecondary education and providing general encouragement. Students receive the messages on their cell phones and respond like a normal text-message conversation, while mentors use an online portal for all communication.
Local businesses like Morales Group, an Indianapolis-based staffing agency that has placed more than 50,000 Hoosiers in positions throughout the Midwest, are eager to get their employees involved.
“I was blessed to have a few mentors in high school that saw something in me that I didn’t quite know was there yet, and they guided me to make the leap to college because my parents didn’t come from a higher education background,” said Tom Morales, co-founder and CEO of Morales Group. “The small pushes of these mentors transformed my life trajectory, and now I want to ensure that we use Morales Group as a platform to pay it forward to other young people. We were thrilled to be the first business to sign on with the Indy Achieves program. This type of mentoring is critical for the students to make it through the summer into their first day of classes,” said Morales.
Business and civic leaders interested in volunteering to be a mentor can sign up on the Indy Achieves website at www.indyachieves.org/mentor. Students sign up for the program through their guidance counselors or by filling out basic information on the Indy Achieves website. All mentors will go through a background check.
The mentor program is one of several employer opportunities through EmployIndy, which can also help businesses engage with young adults, provide soft skills training to workers, and source talent in Marion County.
In May, Mayor Hogsett announced the Indy Achieves program as a way to improve access to postsecondary educational opportunities for all residents and to raise Indianapolis’ college attainment number to 65% by the year 2027. Indy Achieves is working to increase on-time FAFSA completion and 21st Century Scholar enrollment, administering the Indy Promise Scholarship, and providing wraparound services to Marion County residents pursing a postsecondary degree.
For more information about Indy Achieves or the mentor program, visit www.indyachieves.org.