An analysis of the programs serving at-risk students at a San Diego high school

This study examines mentoring relationships and Challenge Day experiences among at-risk adolescents ages 13 to 18 at the high school level. The Mentor Program seeks to provide education and mentoring for at-risk students, while the Challenge Day Program seeks to provide a group educational component on relationships between students to help increase connection, decrease depression, and relational aggression for students; both programs offer partnerships between volunteer adults and students. Four focus groups were considered: 13 Mentors and 29 students in the Mentor Program, 39 students in the Challenge Day Program, and 41 students in a control group. Students described relational experiences. These experiences were statistically analyzed using Chi-squared and two-sample t-tests. Mentor feelings about the Mentor Program's success were evaluated using descriptive statistics. Differences in student experiences across the focus groups were noted and five broad themes identified. Three themes were similar: (a) the importance of relationships and connection with school (b) the importance of shared activities and education in relational aggression and (c) role modeling and identification and their impact on attitudes. Two themes were present in the two program groups and developed in unexpected ways: (a) Challenge Day was a positive experience for both Mentor Program and Challenge Day groups yet (b) more students in these groups reported higher levels of relational aggression than the control group. The findings suggest programs that provide mentoring, include group educational components, and bring AN ANALYSIS OF PROGRAMS SERVING AT-RISK STUDENTS 2 effective mentors into the program can have a positive impact on student awareness and attitude. KEYWORDS: Mentor Program, Challenge Day, At-Risk Students