In 1992, General Electric Drive System employees launched a new program in an attempt to combat social problems at a local school. The employees serve as adult mentors to individual students at Oakland Intermediate School. The program has been well-received by students, parents and staff. The mentors work one-on-one with an individual child throughout the school year. Some mentors have been with the same child for as long as three years.
A large percentage of Oakland's student body is students from one parent, disadvantaged homes. Teachers are asked to identify those students who would most benefit from the program. The students and the mentors must fill out a questionnaire pertaining to their likes, dislikes and interests which are then used to match the student and mentor.
The students selected usually have few positive role models in their lives and therefore the mentors provide guidance and structure in the student's life. As a result of this mentor program, attitudes of the students toward school, teachers and peers have greatly improved. The mentors help steer the students from activities that may be dangerous and/or illegal. The mentors provide the needed connection between the larger community and the child and show the importance of becoming a good citizen despite the odds.
The mentors have lunch, play games, work on computers with the students, help with class work and just listen to the students concerns. In addition to mentoring, the GE group has contributed computer equipment and donated funds to purchase laser discs for the school.
In 1996-1997, the GE volunteers totaled more than fifty people, each of whom contributed an average of 40 hours of service to the school. Some mentors keep in touch with their mentees by phone or e-mail and others take the student on outings.