Turning Points is an academic mentoring program designed to match caring adults from the local community, one on one, with a child in need at Yucca Loma School. Created to service “at risk” children, Turning Points is constructed around several key points – to develop academic success, self esteem, confidence, and friendship between role model adults and elementary aged children. Currently, 76 mentors work one on one with 85 children each week. The goal is to increase the number of mentors and children served to more than 100 children. The volunteer community mentors for the program are carefully screened and trained through fingerprint clearance and formal mentor training. The mentors range in age from 16 to 81 years old.
The Turning Points program provides support and encouragement to children that might not otherwise receive this type of support from parents and family. The consistent support, each week by the mentors, helps motivate the children to improve both academically and socially. Children meet with their mentors either before school, midday, or after school. The inclusion of parents in activities with the children and mentors helps the parents better understand the importance of providing a nurturing environment. Parenting classes, interactive family activities, field trips, and other activities are important parts of this program.
Funding for Turning Points came in August of 1996 through Governor Wilson’s California Mentor Initiative. Governor Wilson wanted organizations within California to create innovative programs to help “at risk” children succeed. Recognizing that the population of students at Yucca Loma school is comprised of a large number of “at risk” children (more than 73% of the school population qualifies for free meals in addition to other at risk contributors), it was clear that a mentoring program would be an asset to the school. Yucca Loma School is the only school within the geographical area known as the High Desert receiving funding for such a program.
Turning Points has made a significant difference in the lives of the countless students and families. In addition, the school staff sees benefits and mentors themselves feel appreciated for their efforts. Aside from simple doing some community volunteer work for the sake of volunteering, the mentors sincerely have a love for children and a desire to see them succeed. Academically, there has been growth in the children. Additionally, the self-esteem and confidence of the children has increased.