Celebrating National Online Learning Day

September 15th is National Online Learning Day, and Restoration Project Foundation is celebrating by highlighting three of our Mentor Partner Organizations that have implemented virtual learning programs for their mentees. New Hope Leadership Academy (NHLA), Proverbs Mentoring Organization (Proverbs), and South Carolina Faith Athletics& Music Charter Institute (FAMCI) have all partnered with The South Carolina Preparatory Academy (SC Prep), a free online classical public charter school serving students in middle and high school across South Carolina. This partnership allows the Mentor Organizations to provide a unique combination of personalized virtual academics and daily mentoring that they have found to be particularly effective in helping their mentees achieve academic success. “Kids in South Carolina went through so much during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said RPF CEO Craig Wooten, “and they need academic structure and support now more than ever. We’re really proud to be supporting the great academic mentoring programs that New Hope, Proverbs, and FAMCI have built.”

While specific implementation varies across the different Mentor Partner organizations, the general practice is largely the same. Mentees gather together in a physical location to attend virtual classes under the supervision of a mentor who works directly with teachers and parents to ensure that students maintain their educational progress. Once the academic day is done, students enjoy additional programming focused on athletics, community service, and other skills development aimed at motivating students to succeed. All three programs are very focused on meeting the needs of the mentees and their families, with the flexibility to incorporate school-from-home days incorporated to accommodate parents’ busy work schedules and provide time for family bonding.

For New Hope Leadership Academy, the partnership with SC Prep makes it possible to provide the personalized structure and support struggling students need to complete their high school diplomas and gain acceptance to the higher education institution or career opportunity that is the best fit for them. “Our kids need accommodations and modifications to be successful, so having individualized academics for each student is really important, as is having a mentor with them during the day to be able to focus on providing support along with the teacher,” explained Executive Director Demond Logan. “We know this works for our kids.” In addition to coursework, NHLA mentees also participate in the Leadership Capstone, an ongoing project focused on building a portfolio of transcripts, letters of recommendation, community service project details, work-based learning experience, and other items students will need after graduation.

At the South Carolina Faith Athletics & Music Charter Institute, students attend SC Prep classes in the morning then shift to a mentoring elective, such as music, journalism, or TV broadcasting, during the second half of the day. “A lot of kids didn’t have a good experience with online schooling during COVID, but this is different and they are having a great time,” explained FAMCI Executive Director Urie Smalls. “The teachers are marvelous, the students get to learn one-on-one, and a learning coach is always there to say ‘let’s go’ when they need a little extra motivation.” This approach provides students with the opportunity to exercise academic freedom in a structured environment, which is excellent preparation for college. Focusing on academics in the morning and mentorship activities in the afternoon also gives students the chance to enjoy the feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction that accompany finishing school work for the day before shifting to something fun. “When they leave for the day, they are energized for the next day,” said Urie, “and they go home feeling good about what they did in the classroom and knowing what they are going to do tomorrow.”

Coach Pep’s Prep Academy has grown rapidly under the guidance of Proverbs Mentoring Organization Executive Director Don Peppers. “It is amazing to see the diversity of the students,” said Don. “You have students coming from big, crowded schools where they struggled with a lot of negative peer pressure and a lack of the individualized attention they needed, others who are coming from smaller private schools, and some who came to us after alternative schooling wasn’t successful. The thing they all have in common is that they want to directly connect with the mentorship provided and discover the leader in themselves.” The individualized attention provided by the SC Prep teachers combined with daily mentoring has opened up opportunities the students couldn’t access in traditional educational environments. “They are able to live out their faith through mentoring,” said Don, “and they are discovering the freedom to take the initiative for their own education.”

To learn more about how you can get involved with a mentor partner organization in your community, please email us at mbailey@restorationprojectfoundation.org.