Georgia Mentoring Program Pivots Mission To Address Pandemic Education Challenges

Path To Shine®
Posted Nov 12, 2020

Founded 10 years ago as a mentoring and tutoring program for elementary-school children in Smyrna, Georgia, Path To Shine® now boasts 17 program locations across middle and north GA. Our purpose has been to provide the academic and social-emotional support to encourage children to thrive in school and build self-confidence to achieve their dreams.
As many Georgia school districts have moved online, technology access, internet availability, and food insecurity have affected the families we serve:

Partnering with Techsoup, a technology provider for non-profits, PTS distributed 11 mobile internet hotspots (with a year of service included) and 22 Chromebook laptops to students served in our programs. “When learning is online, the quality of your connection to school is proportional to your opportunity to learn. Offering new and reliable devices to those in most need, will close the gap and maximize opportunity,” says Fr. Ben Day, (PTS Board Member, Episcopal Priest in Kennesaw, GA).

Where once students could receive two hot meals a day at school, many families are stretched thin and facing food insecurity. While most districts still offer school meals to students in critical need, there are significant gaps in access and distribution among the students we serve. “If you can’t eat, you can’t learn,” says Lesley-Ann Drake, Executive Director of PTS. The Board of Directors voted in March, April and November to use $32,000 of reserve funds to provide direct food relief (delivered by mentor volunteers to students’ front porches). We hope to remove some of the immediate and most basic obstacles to learning, so our students realize their dreams.

“We were founded to help students achieve their dreams. Sometimes the obstacles to realizing those dreams are so basic, that by addressing them with simple and practical solutions, we keep students on track for the ultimate prize, being who they want to be in life,” says Drake.

PTS’s success stems from our principles to maintain a ratio of no more than one Mentor to two students, have a flexible structure that adapts to each local community, and seek collaboration with other organizations.

Founded in 2010 PTS began in Smyrna on Thursday afternoons with 20 children and 11 adult volunteer Mentors. Each week we met for 2.5 hours providing snacks, playing games, giving homework support and reading stories, as well as letting the children choose books to take home. Each week the children became more engaged and were happy to be there.

We developed training, processed background checks, and wrote 5 years of curriculum, providing the books to support the materials. We have maintained 89% attendance average for the children. Mentors have donated over 59,000 hours, worth over $1.5 million.

Programs were added every year, with the oldest program being in Marietta (begun in 2011). Other programs are currently in Macon, Canton, Kennesaw, Columbus, Avondale Estates, Smyrna, Roswell, College Park, Dallas, Fayetteville, Hawkinsville, and Perry.