Community Support Services Blog

 "Mountain Range Mentoring"

January 23, 2019

girl with glasses smiling wearing an americorps shirt
My name is Khaya, and I have been an AmeriCorps member at Kammerer Middle School for 3 years. During this time, I have had the opportunity to influence many students by way of being on my caseload or through association with other students on my caseload. One particular mentoring relationship comes to mind, as I have had the honor to watch this young man fall, grow, and pick himself up over the course of 3 years.

My first year working the program, the student (in mention) was not in the REACH mentoring program. I was more familiar with his younger brother, who was also not a part of the program, however, took many of the same classes with quite a few of my assigned REACH mentees at the time. Through my attempt to motivate the younger brother, I naturally developed a relationship with his older brother/student (in mention). The summer following my first mentorship, I ran into the siblings at Shawnee Park. With no surprise, the younger brother didn’t acknowledge me, however, the older brother spoke and gave me a hug. At that moment, I felt if I could reach the older brother, then I was confident I would be able to reach the younger brother and possibly the entire family, in due time.

During my second year at Kammerer, the student in mention accepted the invitation to participate as a mentee of AmeriCorps REACH. The mentor-mentee relationship began a steady, but positive progression until he was suddenly hit with a symptom I like to term, “Teenager Pox”. My sweet and respectful mentee began breaking out in every way possible: staying away from home for long periods of time; missing excessive days of school; defiant towards adult; and at one point, he even spent time at an alternative school placement. My supervisor, the assistant principal, and I decided to conduct a home visit to try to piece some of the puzzle together to figure out what triggered the change in behavior. This did not yield the results we were hoping, as he continued to display symptoms of Teenager Pox. Nonetheless, I refused to give up on him. I continued to demonstrate my support, care, and concern for him by maintaining open, blunt, and honest conversations with him regarding things he needed to hear. I did this in hopes that once the Teenager Pox dissipated, it would communicate to my mentee that at least one person felt passionate in ensuring he was safe, cared for, and successful.

As I began my third/current year, I was confident that the effort and energy I put into intervening with my mentee worked! Although he was suspended within the first few weeks of the new school year, his behavior began to improve significantly. With the time, patience, and interventions I invested, coupled with, the support of my Kammerer team, he has bounced back to the gem I’ve always known he was but needed him to believe he could be. I’m elated to report that he has transitioned to a high honors/advanced paced class group! When asked how he felt about it all, he ecstatically exclaimed, “I like it”. To hear a young African-American male in today’s society, who once stated he didn’t care about school or his future proclaim excitedly that he likes school, makes me so hopeful my eyes water like high pollen during springtime.

The best part of this mentoring experience is that it gives me hope and confirmation that the interventions and relationships I am building through the mentorship does indeed work, and does indeed make a positive impact on the success of our youth. As a reminder, I have to remember that mentoring is like a mountain range—you will have a starting point, a peak, and some downfalls along the way. As a mentor, we have the opportunity to guide and empower the mentees with tools needed to journey up and over their own personal mountain tops. When they get to the other side, it is our hope that the experience will be reflective of the time, effort, and energy not only invested by the mentor, but also reflective of the work the mentees have invested to assist in growing a stronger sense of self, the power of never giving up, and resiliency and coping skills needed to be successful academically and beyond.



Interventions That Aide in Creating Globally & Culturally Competent Students

January 14, 2019

AmeriCorps Logo

picture of a lady smiling with a grey americorps shirt
My name is Clea Grubb. I am an AmeriCorps member at Noe Middle School. As a member of REACH Corps, my job involves working with middle school students to eliminate barriers that prevent regular school attendance, so that it then increases the chances of those students being academically successful. There can be many reasons why students fail to attend school regularly or succeed academically, and those reasons vary from student to student. Right before Winter Break, two female students on my caseload and a couple of their other friends were entangled in a lot of drama which distracted them from school work. The students sought my assistance in helping sort out the drama. The students shared with me that a group of ESL students were trying to fight them, and speaking badly about them in their native language. I felt that attempting a conflict resolution intervention by meeting with all of the students would provide an opportunity to discuss their issues, and possibly come to a resolution amongst each other. During the first lunch meeting, the students had gotten worked up to fight each other. However, I discussed with them and had them to think about the negative consequences of fighting at school. Although they chose not to fight, the conflict was not resolved so we decided to meet again. During the next lunch meeting we had together, we diverted the focus from the drama of fighting to figuring out ways in which they could make improvements in school due to their low academic performance. Additionally, I had received information from a teacher of one of my REACH students that fights were being instigated due to a misunderstanding of the language. This prompted me to meet with the student individually. During this meeting, we discussed what language barriers meant and how communication can become misunderstood or misinterpreted if we do not understand the language of others. The student acknowledged understanding of this, and even admitted that she felt “drama was dumb” and she hated dealing with it herself. A few days later, my student spread the message to her other friends involved in the drama. They approached me to share that they all agreed “drama was dumb”, so they decided to “drop the beef”, and opted instead, to talk it out with the students with whom they were in conflict with. I am so proud of these students for taking a small step in their academic journey in realizing that putting their well-being first is an important step in succeeding academically. So while there are many reasons why students do not attend school regularly or succeed academically, my job as an AmeriCorps member requires that I assess each student on an individual basis to determine their needs, and then provide interventions that aide the student in realizing their full potential.


Student Support Services Going That Extra Needed Mile

December 20, 2018

My name is Stephanie Corus, and I am a JCPS Home School Coordinator. I have devoted my career to working with teens, so when the door opened to join JCPS’s Student Support Services Programs, at my alma mater of Fairdale High School, it was a natural, joy-filled transition. My job description says I exist to help our attendance and graduation numbers to go up, but the services I am able to provide, goes far beyond numbers on paper. Our students face insurmountable obstacles everyday just to make it onto the school grounds. The support they need is a matter of life or death, literally. Therefore, I feel it my obligation to arrive each day filled with hope and compassion, in order to pour it into the lives of the students who make it onto my case load and who cross my path each day. When I come face to face with a student, I sympathize and empathize with their need for someone, to listen, to care, to understand, and to call them to their highest potential. My job is to get students to come to school everyday, on time. However, my passion is to speak life into them and to sow seeds of encouragement, love, compassion, grace, healing, and hope by building a caring, genuine relationship with them, every time our paths cross. The difference a caring adult can make in a life of a child is invaluable. I thank God that I am positioned to walk with students day in and day out to see them grow, heal, and become the amazing leaders, healthy professionals, and courageous world changers they were born to be.    


The Effectiveness of Mentoring

December 15, 2018

AmeriCorps Logo

When I started my position as an AmeriCorps REACH member in August 2018, my plan was simply to show up and do the work to make sure students are eliminating any obstacles that prevents them from attending school on time daily. However, I recently took the time to evaluate the effectiveness of mentoring students, particularly reflecting on my effectiveness of mentoring I provide for my caseload of 30 students with whom I’ve built relationships over the past few months. In the very moment that I took the time to reflect on the successes and challenges, both spoken and unspoken, of the lived experiences of my students in regards to their academic and personal goals, a tragic thing happened. I received a phone call from a parent of two of my students. She informed me that her two sons had been hit by a car while trying to load the bus to come to school. Because of the connection I’ve built with these students, there was no question that I had to get to Norton’s Children’s Hospital and immediately! 

Although the boys returned home after a week of being hospitalized, many obstacles would stand in their way of returning to a sense of normalcy. The accident resulted in one of the students sustaining a brain injury, so he cannot yet return to school. The other student sustained an injury that requires him to wear a hip cast, but he was able to return to school. Loading and unloading the bus was of concern as the bus transportation to school was not equipped to accommodate his hip cast. The family was in need of food assistance, especially with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching. And mom was in need of transportation to get him to physical therapy. Therefore, I continued to engage with the family daily, as I realized they needed unwavering support now more than ever. The boys needed me, the family needed me, to be Ready to Extend a Caring Hand. Fueled with connection, optimism, and passion for the boys and their family, I was able to provide and secure solid support for the family. I worked tirelessly to locate and connect the family with the right resources so that the student could be transported to school safely on a bus that would accommodate his injury. I incorporated daily interventions of music therapy support for the other home-bound student until he was integrated back into school. With the assistance of the Youth Service Worker, Adrian Graham, the family received new coats, food, and a handsome Turkey for Thanksgiving. Additionally, I collaborated with Crosby Middle School staff, students, and administration to provide extended support to the family. Students selflessly made video grams and cards for the family, and teachers generously provided school gear and food daily. 

Mentoring this family has changed the way I mentor. I don’t simply show up and do the work to make sure students are eliminating obstacles that prevent them from attending school on time daily. I now show up with optimism, do the work with passion, and try to instill hope as I lead students in eliminating obstacles that prevent them from succeeding in life. 

picture of a lady smiling





Amber Rosario


Intentional Mentorship Using Real-Time Data

December 10, 2018

“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.”—Arnold Glasow

close up picture of a man with a long beard and pink bow tie and handkerchief

For three years, the Community Support Services Department has been building, shaping, and refining a system to provide meaningful and intentional student interventions while collecting and using real-time data. In this process of revamping the data system, we identified the main issue with our collection of data—that we were looking at it too late in the process. We were focused on the number of interventions and broader ethereal topics without enough focus on the quality and details of the dosage. Without realizing it, our interventions can (and sometimes did) become outdated, off topic, and even irrelevant, therefore making the monitoring and measurement of student success and outcomes challenging at best. We know that mentoring has no “prescription." All students are different, and their individualized needs change very quickly. However, we have discovered that our group of mentors can work within a uniformed system, while providing an individualized approach for every student they serve.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of mentor is “a trusted counselor or guide.” This definition communicates to us that we must have individuals in these mentoring roles that can build strong relationships with students and have a plan to guide the students once the relationship is established. We knew, without a doubt, that we have amazing members who can connect deeply and quickly with our students; however, the program was lacking a plan. In many instances, during the process of relationship development between mentor and student, the mentor discovers significant, nonacademic barriers that interfere with student success. Once aware of this information, it becomes difficult for mentors to guide a student through improving a math grade knowing the family is homeless, hungry, and simply trying to survive. Mentors should always be empathetic and respectful of the students’ status. However, it is equally important that the mentor assists the student in developing a road map of life skills that will eventually lead to success, inside and outside of the classroom.  The Check and Connect Program has been a valuable guide in the collection of data that monitors indicators in behaviors of the students pertaining to attendance, behavior, grades, SMART Goals, transportation, schedule, after-school activities, etc. We often use the “Check” portion of the model because it emphasizes that mentors should know the most current information about each student before each session begins. Being aware of the current status of our students allows us to be intentional in providing relevant teaching tools and techniques to promote success in the areas of need, while also allowing the mentors to remain empathetic to the student’s current situation to provide the needed support on an emotional level.  

Our data system is not yet perfect; therefore, we will continue to assess and modify it to ensure that we are always capturing the most accurate and relevant information. However, we are proud of the fact that our current system, which reflects the intentional, individualized guidance mentors provide to our students during sessions, has increased students’ overall success. 


Impact of the Backpack of Success Skills

December 5, 2018

Amber Rosario
Crosby Middle School
AmeriCorps REACH Program

picture of a lady smiling
Marcus shared with me during his S.M.A.R.T Goal Conferencing that he wanted to do better academically. I emailed his teachers to see what options Marcus had to improve his grades. I asked each one of his teachers if there were possibly any make up any work, extra credit, etc.? Additionally, I asked if there were any academic barriers to his academic goals? Most of his teachers replies were that he enjoyed talking with his peers and he frequently comes to class without assignments and his text book. Nevertheless, his teachers were willing to let him make up his work. Meanwhile, a student had been referred to me by the Assistant Principal. Sally was described to me as smart and but her conduct is disappointing and unsatisfactory. I asked Sally if she would be willing to facilitate a peer study hall to assist her fellow peers that need extra time and support after school. To make a great story short……. Marcus and Sally both regularly attend and schedule days to participate in study hall before I check Marcus’s grades and academic progress in the shared data portion of our weekly sessions. I am proud to say that Marcus is learning the concept of self-awareness, resiliency, and personal initiative. I am sure he can add resilient learner to his Backpack of Success Skills. Moreover, Sally without question has stepped up and led the way for positive school culture on behalf of the students. Sally’s display of self-leadership will equip her with the tools to eventually develop a positive influence on her peers.

Neighborhood Place Program Specialists of JCPS Community Support Office Host "A Night Of Thanksgiving" Celebrating JCPS Students 

November 26, 2018

a group of five smilig coworkers standing, two men on the outside, three women in the middle.
The Neighborhood Place Program Specialists of JCPS Community Support Office wear many hats!  One of the hats we wear, which we consider our greatest gifts and talents, are mentoring JCPS youth in elementary, middle, and high school through the facilitation of school programming focused on addressing various social-emotional skills according to the need indicated by schools’ FRYSC, Mental Health Counselor, or other school staff. On November 15, 2018, the Program Specialists hosted the first ever Student Success Night, themed "A Night of Thanksgiving," at Bates Memorial Baptist Church. The night started off with dinner for 21 students plus 2 family members of their choice prepared by JCPS’s very own students of  Western High School’s Culinary Program,  two professional family photos, and ended with students being  “thanked’’ and recognized via certificate presentation for their participation and completion of the short-term mentoring groups offered at their schools.  

Additionally, as the students were called to accept certificates, it was great seeing the support, encouragement,  pride, and smiles of the family members in attendance. In the moments following presentation of certificates, adult family members were asked to hold hands with their student, look into their eyes, and affirm that they would forever be their child’s number one supporter and advocate in school, as well as, in life beyond. 

Everyone in attendance would agree that the program was truly ‘A Night of Thanksgiving’! We are looking forward to repeating another student success night in Spring 2019!  

Picture of two ladies standing next to a student holding a certificate and man kneeling down next to the student smiling
If you are interested in having a Program Specialist serve students in your school, please feel free to contact us! The mentoring groups offered are:  
  • Kenny Boyd—Men of Honor and Keep It Real 
  • Cynthia Crowe—.I.R.L. Talk (Gorgeous Individuals Reaching Leadership)  
  • Keisha LeBlanc—L.O.L (Little Ladies of Leadership) and S.W.A.G. (Stand With A Group ) 
  • Leneshia Perry—G.E.M.S.  (Girls Education & Mentoring  Support Group)

A Spotlight on JCPS Program Specialist Kenny Boyd

November 16, 2018

program specialist smiling and talking and looking at a little boy
I am Kenny Boyd, a JCPS Program Specialist. My job provides opportunities to work with at-risk African-American students in JCPS’s elementary, middle, and high schools. It allows me the unique privilege to create school mentoring programming, called Men of Honor, designed to reach, teach, and meet the needs of students. Recently, I came across an article written by Baruti K. Kafele titled, “Empowering Young Black Males.” In the article, Kafele states that “To excel in school, black male students need role models and dreams. Of all the challenges we face in education today, I can think of none greater than the challenge of motivating, educating, and empowering black male leaners.” This really spoke to me because as I visit different schools daily to mentor black male students, I constantly search for ways to empower our young men by giving them a new outlook on life and to drive the point home that education is the key to their success in life.

One of the most effective ways I go about empowering students is by bringing in a diverse group of positive male role models from the community, ranging from CEOs of companies to convicted felons. Each speaker empowers students by sharing his or her unique story. The more successful men share what it took to reach their level of success, including mistakes made along the way and how they overcame obstacles in reaching their overall goal. The men who have made life-changing mistakes share with students how their failure to take education seriously placed them on a reckless path of poor decision making and incarceration, and thus, they attempt to encourage the students to think and view education more positively so as not to make the same mistakes.

I ensure that my programming remains in line with the JCPS vision, mission, and pillars to assist young males of color become successful in school as well as in life. I use every opportunity during their academic experiences to reflect on successes and challenges so that, through trial and error, they can learn to make appropriate adjustments, when needed, to meet academic and personal goals. 


Neighborhood Place Annual Day: Shining Bright for 25 Years

October 17, 2018

On October 11, more than 350 Neighborhood Place staff and partners came together to celebrate our 25th anniversary along with Mayor Greg Fischer, JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Carmen Coleman, and Assistant Superintendent of Academic Support Programs Dr. Alicia Averette. Neighborhood Place has been recognized by Harvard Ashe Institute as being one of our nation's top innovative collaborative models where governmental agencies come together to provide “wrap-around” services for families. JCPS, Louisville Metro Government, State DCBS, and Centerstone understand that if we really want to help families on their journey to self-sufficiency and provide effective education to our children, community members must come together. Neighborhood Place does just that! The best part—it works! We serve more than 1,000 people each day in Jefferson County, collectively in our eight Neighborhood Place locations and two satellite locations. That’s a lot of people. Because of our collaborative approach, Jefferson County is able to reach more of its families who qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits than any other county in Kentucky. Because of our multi-site service centers located throughout the county, Neighborhood Place is accessible for all families, thus impacting education! Children who have their basic needs met (food, shelter, electricity, water, medical care, and therapeutic care) are definitely more likely to succeed in school.


Build-A-Bed Project  Receives WLKY Bell/Spirit of Louisville Award at the WLKY Bell Awards

October 17, 2018

On October 4, 2018, the Office of Community Support Services and its partners—K-I Lumber, Bowles Mattress, and Home Depot—were recognized by the mayor and WLKY as the recipient of the Mayor’s Bell/Spirit of Louisville Award for the Build-A-Bed Project. The project truly reflects the compassion of Louisville when the community comes together to make a difference in the lives of children. The Office of Community Support, its Build-A-Bed partners, and community members have successfully built approximately 1,000 beds for JCPS students. The outpouring support of time, talent, and resources of everyone involved has effectively assisted students in reaching their full potential by providing them a good night’s sleep. Additionally, each child receives a bed, mattress, sheet set, blanket, pillow, handmade quilt, teddy bear, toothpaste, toothbrush, and a bedtime book.