Moving Forward: College Bound Today Expands to Morro Bay High School

Los Osos Middle School staff

Written by Judy Salamacha

October 8, 2021

Los Osos Middle School staff supporting the pilot year of CBT. 2021-22. Class is in need of mentors. Photo by Dan Clement

As the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted normal school activities at Los Osos Middle School, Dan Clement, co-founder of College Bound Today (CBT), was working with Principal Karl Blum to establish an Estero Bay version of the award-winning southern California program. Staff training, identifying students and parents willing to commit to the program, and recruitment of local mentors who would embrace and encourage the 8th grade students’ quest to attend college was well beyond planning stages. Despite the odds CBT had a successful first school year with seventeen volunteer mentors working with 25 students from November through May2021.   

Clement had served 31 years as a trial lawyer “living in the SoCal fast lane” before retiring and moving to SLO County. He had also devoted time and energy co-creating the on-campus college mentoring program with its ultimate purpose to enhance students’ expectations for their future careers. He was pleased to report, “Thanks to the skilled leadership of LOMS Principal Blum, most of the mentors’ meetings with their students were in-person and outdoors on the LOMS campus, under strict social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols.” 

Currently Clement and CBT veteran counselors Andy Castillo and Jose Suarez are in preparation to expand the program to Morro Bay High School working with Principal Scott Schalde, Assistant Principal Stefanie Hardgrave and College and Career Specialist Taylor Laird.

“All 17 mentors have agreed to continue working with the students (transferring) to MBHS,” said Clement. “Our capacity will enable us to handle up to 50-60 students, so we hope that MBHS leadership can recruit more students to join the program before we launch in November.”

As the mentors move with their students, Clement is reaching out for at least twelve more mentors to start serving a new group of 8th grade students at LOMS by the end of October. 

 Besides the volunteer mentors Clement wanted the community to know parents are told they are the foundation for the success of the program. When parents reinforce the requirements to stay in the program, the CBT partnership works 90% of the time. Parents are encouraged to attend meetings and college visits in order to help their children follow their dreams.

The following mentors who will continue with their students shared why they felt it was an important program:

Melanie Davenport is a Family Support Specialist for Transitions Mental Health Association and currently in graduate school herself. She “…truly believes the way to affect positive change is to start with the youth.” She appreciated that CBT taught skills like communication, goal setting, and self-advocacy – learning how to work positively with one’s strengths and weaknesses. “At first the students weren’t sure what they wanted or needed. CBT helped facilitate understanding their potential possibilities and learn the skills needed to accomplish their goals. I loved closing each meeting setting new goals (to accomplish) before our next meeting. The kids were really self-reflective and eager to put into practice what they learned.” 

Entrepreneur and Master Certified Coach Don Maruska said, “As a first-generation college student myself, I know how important it is to have support from many people—family, teachers, school counselors, and mentors. Our team of three mentors worked with eight students. An immediate need was how to keep up with classes and ask for help in a virtual environment. We discussed an issue and role play how the students could assert themselves – a critical life skill. I also came to appreciate how challenging it can be for students in households with kids from different marriages. It’s not like “Leave It to Beaver” anymore. Some students juggle helping younger siblings or half-siblings as well trying to find their way through school and think about their future.  These are good kids with parents who want to help them succeed and are pleased to connect with mentors who want to support their success.”

Marcie Begleiter is the founding director of Integrated Studies program at the Otis College of Art and Design. “I recently moved to Los Osos and was looking for a way to become involved in the community. A neighbor who knows Dan put us in touch and we discussed the CBT and his success in running it at Montebello. Dan is very detail oriented and his approach to running the program was central to my decision to get involved. Also, I taught college for 23 years and thought I might have something to offer the students about prepping for that experience.

“We were given detailed syllabus notes for each session. But we could tailor the discussion for our specific groups. We started the sessions with ‘icebreakers.’ One time we asked the students to draw an object from their home that was meaningful to them. They held up the drawing and told us why they had chosen the item. The stories were fascinating and gave us an insight into their lives and goals in ways that I had not expected. For me, that moment revealed the program as offering more than a preface to college; it was an experience that developed relationships and trust.”

Berto Marroquin is Cuesta College’s EOPS Councilor and a first-generation college student. He personally experienced the importance of mentors throughout school and college. “Being able to see myself in others who were successful and being supported by them throughout my journey was invaluable. Mentoring for CBT was my opportunity to hopefully be the one empowering these young students to achieve their educational and life goals. As a community college counselor, I know that engaging students at the young age and clearing the path for them is going to lead to better outcomes.”

Marroquin said, “One of the goals most of the students wanted to achieve was self-efficacy. From our first conversation we heard them say they wanted to get better at asking for help and being confident in taking control of their education – how to approach their teachers and peers to ask for help or feel confident in taking actions. These students came a long way in their confidence to speak up, ask clarifying questions, and engage their teachers. This is a lifelong skill we will continue to work on.”

At the end of the school year, Marroquin was inspired as the mentors, parents and teachers toured MBHS. “The students’ energy and excitement was contagious. We also saw how grateful their parents were. This experience reminded me why we were doing what we were doing. The time spent was definitely worth it.”

Interested in mentoring for College Bound Today? Check out www.collegeboundtoday.net then contact Dan Clement ASAP at dclement@communitypartners.org or 310-710-4071. 

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