Youth Mentor Program
Youth Mentor Trip to U of O
Youth Mentor Trip to U of O
A college education is one of the best ways to break out of poverty. A degree opens doors, increases upward mobility, and is almost guaranteed to increase earning potential. The U.S. Census Bureau has reported that, over the course of their lives, workers with a college degree earn more than twice as much as workers who dropped out of high school and almost a million dollars more than workers with a high school diploma. For women, a college degree makes an even bigger difference: women who graduate from college earn about 76 percent more than women with only a high school diploma.

Unfortunately, children from low-income families are much less likely than their peers to obtain a college degree. Over the last 30 years, disparities in educational achievement based on socioeconomic status, including the gap in college graduation rates, have increased dramatically. IHI recognizes the importance of a college degree and is familiar with the obstacles facing many low-income youth in their pursuit of higher education. To help, we have developed a Mentor Program for high school students that focuses on exploring options, accessing opportunities, and making decisions that position young people for future success.

IHI's Mentor Program is fully integrated with our broader youth and family services, so resident service staff have often been working with parents and children for years before they enter the program. As young people move into high school, IHI's focus shifts to helping them think about their next steps, which include developing job readiness skills and talking about college. IHI staff members meet with resident youth individually and in group settings, so they benefit from one-on-one coaching as well as peer support as they prepare to face new challenges. Every month the Mentor group focuses on a new topic such as creating resumes, preparing for job interviews, identifying volunteer opportunities, applying for college scholarships, completing admission applications, and writing personal statements.

For many high school students, this is the first time they have talked about going to college and it is a daunting prospect. To help make the idea of going away to school more manageable, IHI staff members take students on college tours throughout the State, including Portland State, Western Oregon State, Oregon State University, and the University of Oregon. Seeing a school in person, in the company of peers and adults they know and trust, helps create a comfort zone for youth who may be the first in their families to consider college. For those who decide to apply, IHI staff is available to help at every step along the way, from securing applications to researching scholarships and applying for financial aid.

We are happy to report that students we have worked with since middle school are now matriculated at Portland State University, Oregon State University, and Western Oregon State. Many of these first generation college students are also the recipients of competitive scholarships. IHI is proud to support our young residents as they take a very exciting, and scary, step toward adulthood and build a strong foundation for their future success.