The Vision Cultural Mentoring Initiative is an outstanding community service effort by the University of Maryland to connect college students to the local community to effect change in the educational achievement of disadvantaged youth. The yearlong program pairs college students with high school students in the Prince George’s country area to expose high school students to college and to engage them in learning about multicultural communities.
The Vision Cultural Mentoring Initiative was created out of an identified need to expand the experiences of local public school students, so that they have greater interest, capacity and preparation to go to college. On the other hand, the program also expands college student understanding of civic and social needs in the community surrounding their college. For example, Bladensburg High School has one of the lowest SAT school average in Prince Georges County Maryland. Students at the school are struggling to achieve collegiate entrance. A lack of exposure to college, lack of mentorship, and lack of preparation all contribute to the students in this school not pursuing higher education. The Vision Cultural Mentoring Initiative was created to change this reality.
The program brings students to the University of Maryland campus on a regular basis to demystify the college experience. Students shadow their college mentors in their classes, they attend campus cultural and social events, they participate in collegiate workshops, and they are guided through the college admissions process. What is most creative about the program is that students are simultaneously engaged in learning about their cultures and history. They are provided enhanced opportunities to affirm their cultural identity through reading culturally focused books and then engaging in scholarly discussions on the books with their mentors. The program was created with the belief that students must see college not only as an opportunity to gain a degree but to grow personally and culturally—to learn about themselves in ways that were not offered during their k-12 experience.
The program’s first year produced outstanding results: all of the high school students that participated in the program went to college. The Vision program has made an impact in the local community of Prince George’s County Maryland and positively impacted the lives of its high school and college leaders.