Samantha Walker discovered a way to give back to the state of Idaho by participating in a pilot program at Boise State called Strive for College. One of the unique components of Strive is Walker’s ability to mentor high school students, some who are towns away, without so much as leaving her house.
“This program shows students who wouldn’t normally have the resources, the immense opportunities that are available to them,” Walker, a freshman chemistry major, said.
Strive: Working toward a more educated Idaho
Walker is one of 20 Boise State students working toward advancing college enrollment and graduation rates through Strive, a nationwide non-profit mentoring program pairing college and high school students. Strive’s goal is to support and assist students in low-income or underserved areas in successfully going on to higher education.
“Idaho now ranks dead last nationally for the number of kids who go on to a two-or four-year degree,” said Jennie Sue Weltner, communications officer for the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation. “That is unacceptable. We need to dramatically change this situation for the sake of our kids and the state.”
Go On Idaho, GEAR UP, Don’t Fail Idaho! (sponsored by the J.A. Albertson Foundation) and national Strive for College are some of the supporters of Strive at Boise State.
Strive, now a Boise State student organization, just finished up its pilot semester. Boise State is currently the only Idaho university with a chapter. In the pilot semester, 31 mentees were selected from Emmett and Homedale high schools to participate one-on-one with the 20 Boise State mentors.
“Our goal is for Strive to expand to other campuses in Idaho so we reach more students,” Weltner said. “One unique way we plan on reaching kids in rural areas is through virtual mentoring so that kids in remote locations can get the help
The college students involved met not only in person with their mentees, but also relied on virtual meetings. This pilot program was the first in the nation to incorporate virtual mentorship.
“We can reach out to the rural areas like Homedale and Emmett, where they may otherwise not be exposed to the college culture,” said Idaho Regional Strive Director, David Eastwood.
Mentors and mentees participated in a weekly virtual meeting where the mentees were guided through the college application process, including financial aid, scholarships, essays, resumes and more.
Weltner gauged the program’s success by the fact that, in the first pilot semester, numerous first-generation students were accepted to their top-choice universities.
“If that amount of success can be found in two rural Treasure Valley towns then there is by far many more success stories to be found statewide,” Weltner said.
In the first semester, 259 individual mentoring sessions were completed between Homedale and Emmett high school students and their Boise State mentors.
“They are given guidance and encouragement every step of the way, enabling them to successfully enroll and attend a four-year university after graduating high school,” said Abby Lipschultz, sophomore nursing major and Boise State’s Strive chapter director.
According to Lipschultz, while more than two-thirds of students from families in the top income quartile go on to a four-year institution, only 20 percent of students from the bottom income quartile do so.
“These students in the bottom income quartile are not any less qualified, but their access to the resources they need to enroll in and pay for college is extremely limited,” Lipschultz said.
Issues holding students from the bottom income quartile back include understaffed counseling offices at public schools and, in many cases, parents who are unable to assist students in the application process because they never attended college themselves. Strive aims to equip otherwise qualified students with the tools to go on to and be successful in higher education.
“Strive is important because we recognize this gap and are bridging it with college students who can relate to these high school students, serve as their role models and ultimately help them unlock and unleash their potential,” Lipschultz said.
As the program expands, Strive is seeking more Boise State student volunteers. Walkner said working with Strive does not take a major time commitment, however, in the long run, it is beneficial for each student served, their communities and ultimately the state of Idaho.
“We hope that the experience is impactful for the mentors too,” Walker said. “Helping someone get into college and being part of such a positive solution to a statewide problem is no small accomplishment.”
Lipschultz agreed, pointing to the busy life of a college student as a hard time to become civically engaged in the community.
“This semester I was blessed to witness 20 of my peers in action as they gave up a little of their time to change the lives of high school students who previously had little access to the resources we were able to provide,” Lipschultz said. “It is so good to know that these students will have the opportunity to attend a university where they can pursue an education that sets them on a path to achieving their goals and dreams, and we helped to make that possible.”
Strive representatives will be at the Get (IN)volved student organization fair on Wednesday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. with more information on becoming a mentor.