When representatives from a mentoring program for high school students, named the Prometheus Project, came to one of Joel Parent’s classes at Concordia to do a presentation, he thought it was the perfect opportunity to start mentoring again.
“I’ve been meaning to do some kind of volunteer work for a while now,” says Parent, a political science student at Concordia, who’s experience as a volunteer mentor to a ninth grade student in Windsor, Ontario, has left him with lasting impressions.
“To know that you are adding to someone’s success and giving them a positive influence is extremely rewarding.”
The Prometheus Project of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Montreal, is a mentoring program that helps combat the city’s rising dropout rate. This program currently operates in over 20 French and English elementary and high schools.
“The project was started ten years ago by a group of young professionals who were concerned with the rising high school dropout rate in Quebec,” says Simon Bonenfant, case developer and manager for the program. These eight individuals ranging from doctors to lawyers established a mentoring service to help high school students that were having trouble at school
According to the Youth in Transition survey, released by Statistics Canada in 2000, the high school dropout rate- the proportion of 20-year-olds that have not completed high school or not working towards its completion- was at 12 per cent. This translates roughly into 48,000 individuals nationwide that did not complete their secondary studies.
The fact that more teens are dropping out of school is due to numerous factors such as responsibility at home and choosing to work over finishing school.
The survey also considered other factors related to whether a student drops out, for instance their demographic profile, parents’ education and occupation and their participation in extracurricular activities.
Over the years, this mentoring service proved to be highly effective in reducing the problem and in 2002 the Prometheus Project merged with Big Brothers Big Sisters, who were running a similar program at the elementary school level, in order to share resources.
Although this program targets mostly high school students between the ages of 12 and 17, it also practices early prevention by mentoring elementary school students.
“There are some children who show lack of motivation at an early period in their life,” says Kiki Dranias, communications & marketing director of the project.
The Prometheus Project works closely with school officials such as counselors and teachers, to identify those students who are at risk of dropping out.
Detecting these students is a two-step process. First, officials look for signs of behavioural problems or an apparent loss of interest in school and school-related activities.
Other possible characteristics include frequent absence from school, a noticeable drop in grades, low self-esteem, substance abuse and isolation from peers.
Second, officials determine whether these young individuals would benefit from the mentoring service.
By pairing these at-risk students with a suitable mentor, they will not only obtain personalized help to improve in their grades, but will also receive the attention and encouragement that they need to build their self-confidence.
The program consists of strictly in-school mentoring sessions that last for the entire school year. The only situation where a mentor and prot