By MORGAN MANNS
Several organizations have come together in an effort to help area students thrive.
In partnership with Fostoria City Schools, the Fostoria Area Chamber of Commerce, West Independence United Methodist Church, First Federal Bank and Fostoria Economic Development Corporation, Camp Fire Northwest Ohio received a $45,000 one-year Community Connector grant to implement the Thrive program at FCS.
Working with “at-risk” eighth-grade students at FCS, Thrive strives to positively impact youth, according to Camp Fire Program Specialist Micah Zinna, based on four components — finding your spark, growth mindset, goal setting and reflection.
Finding your spark helps students figure out what they’re passionate about and ways to explore those interests.
“If you’re really into nature, how can you use that in real life?” Zinna explained. “If you’re a good listener that may turn into helping other people. We help shape it for them and put things into perspective as far as what they can do with their spark.”
The most important component, according to Zinna, is ensuring students have a growth mindset to show them “success isn’t just innate abilities.” Rather, when they practice what they enjoy doing, they are able to learn and grow.
Goal setting helps students learn how to set goals and how to shift gears when things don’t go as planned while reflection allows them the opportunity to periodically reflect on their progress through the other components.
Camp Fire and community partners are seeking 20-25 adult mentors who are willing to work one-on-one with a student once a month, focusing on the four components of Thrive.
Adult mentors must be 18 years of age or older. Applications can be picked up at the chamber office, 121 N. Main St., or found on the chamber website at www.fostoriaohio.org.
They must be filled out and submitted no later than Sept. 13 to the administrative offices at FCS, 1001 Park Ave. When applications are dropped off, mentor hopefuls must bring a valid ID to receive background checks covered through the grant.
“We’re looking for caring adults who are willing to come in and be a positive role model to these students,” Sarah Stephens Krupp, chamber/small business director, said. “Someone who would like to make a difference in students’ lives and can commit to be there at all the sessions because consistency is important.”
Orientation is scheduled for Sept. 26 from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Selected mentors will be trained in the Thrive program before meeting with students the fourth Tuesday of every month from 9:30-10:30 a.m. through April.
School staff will make recommendations as to what eighth graders would benefit from the Thrive program based on academics as well as past performance and personal development.
“We’ll look for students who need additional guidance and assistance in becoming young adults,” Fostoria Junior/Senior High School Principal Drew Bauman said, explaining the number of students selected will be chosen based on the number of mentors who apply and are approved.
In addition, high school students will be trained as peer mentors for the eighth graders and will meet with them three times a month. Peer mentors will also go through an application process once school begins.
“This will give students a real stake in the leadership of the building in ensuring not only themselves but their peers succeed,” Bauman said. “We had the mission last year for students to leave a legacy. By doing what they can to help their peers succeed, they’re leaving an imprint on a future graduating class.”
Peer mentors and mentees in the Thrive program will participate in team building and stem challenges to solve problems and work together while learning soft skills such as social skills and communication.
Mentees will then meet with adult mentors, planning different Thrive challenges to show their mentors what they’ve been learning. Zinna said they will also have various activities that provide the mentors an opportunity to support what the mentees had learned.
While the pairs will meet during the school day, the Thrive program won’t interfere with classes, according to Bauman, as it will take place during Success, when every student at FJSHS will complete goal-setting through a Leader in Me initiative entitled LEAD. LEAD will require students to identify three goals each quarter — grades, attendance and personal development — and track those goals weekly.
The goal of Thrive is two-fold: provide youth with positive role models and show students what job opportunities are available in the Fostoria area.
“We want to show them that the community cares about their personal development and their future,” Krupp said. “We want them to learn and develop skills that make them highly employable.”
“Our hope is for (students) to be able to take all these components and apply them to the workforce,” Zinna added.
Most eighth-grade students will be enrolled in a careers class at FJSHS. Staff are working with the chamber to get business leaders into the classroom to share with students what they do and how they got there as well as organizing field trips for students to visit area businesses.
Krupp, who spent six years on the Camp Fire board of trustees, said she was aware of the Thrive mindset as well as the need to bring the workforce into area schools and vice versa.
“I knew Hancock County had programs for that and we wanted to implement something similar,” she said. “We’re looking to address the workforce needs of manufacturing and the lack of skilled employees.
“The Fostoria Learning Center is a really large example of addressing those needs. We wanted to take it a step further and start working with youth so it was a natural fit to partner with the schools.”
While the program ends after the school year, Krupp said officials are already talking about things to do to compliment and continue the program.
“We’re investing in students to ensure they have a better future,” she said. “Anytime we can invest in students and give them life skills, we’re ultimately benefiting the community. We’re investing in students to help them succeed and help our future workforce.”
Community Connectors awarded $9.9 million to 116 community partners to mentor approximately 33,000 Ohio students in the latest round of grants. In 2014, Ohio officials designed the Community Connectors program to bring together students, their parents, schools, communities, faith or values based organizations and businesses in mentoring. The program seeks to strengthen communities through mentoring opportunities and create new pathways for students resulting in higher educational achievement and workforce readiness.
“The goal is to help students get excited about their future — to be encouraged to dream big — and learn what it takes to put their dreams and goals into action,” the website states.
The grant targets students in grades 5-12 in low-performing or high-poverty schools and measures how the applicants intend to encourage goal-setting, promote character building and instill a sense of hope for the future.
Since its inception, it has awarded $29.2 million for programs that give more Ohio students access to “role models who can motivate and inspire them and help them develop skills that lead to success in school and the workplace,” the website states.
Other area organizations who received Community Connectors grant funds in the latest round include SMYL (Seneca Mentoring Youth Links) at $100,000 to pair Seneca County youth with mentors who provide a positive, stable influence in their lives; and TOPS Advantage Mentoring — Fostoria at $80,000 to provide one-on-one mentoring for students to encourage positive decision-making, to be role models and to make a difference in the community.
For more information on Community Connectors grants, visit http://communityconnectors.ohio.gov/.
For more information on Thrive or becoming a mentor, call Zinna at 419-422-5415, Bauman at 419-436-4110 or Krupp at 419-435-0486.
“We’re really excited about this program and implementing it in Fostoria,” Zinna said, noting Camp Fire offers the program in Findlay. “This is a new opportunity for us to reshape it and make it a little different. The peer mentor piece I think is going to be really special and beneficial for the peer mentors as well as mentees.”