Collaboration between CSM and Hillcrest to provide mentorship and support to students

Jeanita Lyman, TSV Staff Writer

Project Change, a collaborative program between College of San Mateo and San Mateo County Youth Services Center designed to prepare and support young people exiting the center for classes at CSM, will be making its debut this Summer.

The program is still in its beginning stages and will be available only at CSM with 5-10 students for it’s initial semester. The program is connected to the youth center, which includes a juvenille hall, school and services for underprivileged or troubled youth. According to Kathryn Bliss, Project Change founder and director, there has been an overwhelming amount of support for the program so far and the idea of expanding it to Skyline is already being considered, although the official plans are currently for CSM only.

The program is currently in the development period right now, where potential students and mentors are being identified and the training and matching for mentors will be conducted in March and April,” said Bliss in a recent email interview. “The pilot begins this summer, where students will enroll in a Summer bridge program (Pathways to Success), where they will receive help with math and English, take the placement tests for the Fall, be matched with individual academic counselors an receive priority registration.”

The program will be the first of its kind in San Mateo, and amongst a very small number of programs statewide that offer support to students beginning college after juvenile hall. While many educational programs exist for incarcerated youth, they aim primarily to help with GED or high school completion and career readiness.

Bliss first came up with the idea for the program last Summer and presented a proposal to the Basic Skills Initiative in October, which was approved for funding shortly thereafter. Bliss worked with members of the basic skills committee at CSM as well as other organizations connected with the youth center and with the judge, teachers and staff at the youth center to organize the project. According to Bliss, there has been an overwhelming outpour of interest in Project Change, with at least 12 faculty members already expressing their interest in volunteering.

Students enrolled in the project will be matched with faculty and staff mentors from various disciplines for their first academic year and are also provided with individualized academic counseling.

The program works with student support services to help students access any services that they are eligible for and with the learning center, which facilitates the Pathways to Success and SMART programs, which are responsible for selecting peer mentors for the program.

Sarah Artha Negara, kinesiology faculty and founder of the pilates teaching program at CSM, first heard about the program through a mass email and was drawn to it due to her prior experience of helping to raise a foster child. In a phone interview, she said that she felt she had skills she could share that could potentially be helpful to Project Change as a result. “I saw how much a human being can change,” she said while explaining her attraction to the program, adding that she hopes to help instill in students some confidence and belief in themselves. She hopes to be a faculty mentor if a student in the program shows interest in pursuing a degree in kinesiology or teaching pilates.

Student and faculty mentors are only being selected from CSM at this time, but anyone with questions about the program or when it will be available at Skyline may contact Kathryn Bliss at [email protected].