Group partners students, mentors for success
In a cozy K Street office adorned with collegiate flags and framed photos of beaming youths in caps and gowns, Mercedes Campbell described the first time she met her mentor, Tara Chapman, as "awkward."
Three years later, they share a bond like sisters.
"Now, it's natural. She is like a regular person in my life. I don't see her as an outside person; she's a norm," said Campbell, 17, a senior at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School.
Campbell and Chapman were matched through Capital Partners for Education, a nonprofit organization in Northwest Washington that provides students from low-income families with mentoring and academic and enrichment support.
The group, established in 1993, provides scholarships worth up to $4,500 to area students so they can attend private schools. The group has 16 partner schools.
The "quality of mentoring" is what sets the program apart from others, said Khari Brown, executive director. Adult mentors are carefully selected, trained and supported to ensure appropriate matches are made based on the background and individual needs of each student, according to the program. A two-year commitment is required of each mentor, and some continue on for the four years.
"We are trying to fill in any gaps," said Brown, adding that students shouldn't be denied the opportunity to receive a private school education because of economic challenges.
Students are exposed to a variety of academic and college preparatory workshops, as well as community service projects. Some include study skills workshops, open to all students, and SAT prep classes offered by the Princeton Review for seniors.
"The end goal of the program is for our kids to graduate high school and go to college," Brown said.
For Campbell, acceptance into her school was a major turning point in life. Campbell, who has a full schedule of classes and school activities, and Chapman communicate weekly through e-mails and phone calls.
They look forward to monthly outings. Manicures, ice skating and hosting a fundraising dinner for Campbell's recent trip to Peru are just a few experiences they've shared. Chapman will soon teach Campbell to drive.
Lately, college has been Campbell's focus. She has received several acceptance letters and plans to major in international relations.