California State University, Long Beach
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Program Gives A BLAST Of Hope

Published: January 15, 2016

Mentoring gives a blast of hope to potential students at CSULB thanks to the College of Education’s partnership with Long Beach BLAST (Better Learning for All Students Together).

Long Beach BLAST provides one-on-one academic mentoring and small group tutoring opportunities through matching CSULB teacher candidates with children in Long Beach Unified School District school sites, explained College of Education Dean Marquita Grenot-Scheyer who joined the university in 1988.

For future teachers from the College of Education, Long Beach BLAST facilitates initial field experiences with children at school sites. Grenot-Scheyer serves as a volunteer board member and shared that “BLAST provides important developmental experiences for our aspiring educators. They are in the field, engaging with diverse students in our community providing important mentoring and support. This opportunity is truly a `win-win’ for all students.”

Benefits go both ways, Grenot-Scheyer said.

“BLAST has served more than 13,000 students. This organization has touched many children and youths in our community. But there are benefits as well for CSULB students in terms of the kinds of mentorship activities BLAST provides,” she said. “We have served about 12,000 mentees including students from Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Long Beach Community College and Harbor Community College.”

The BLAST Academic Mentoring Program has summer placements available weekday afternoons at Carmelitos Family Literacy Center, Carmelitos Recreation Center, Willard Elementary (YMCA/WRAP) and Northpointe Community Center, Long Beach. Since founded, BLAST has placed more than 4,000 college student volunteers who have helped better than 5,400 youth serving on roughly 40 school sites. BLAST academic mentors work with youth one-on-one or in small groups to assist youth to improve academic performance, encourage healthy social and emotional growth.

“Many of CSULB’s students plan education careers or social work,” said Grenot-Scheyer. “Many have a deep commitment to social justice and find their way to BLAST. The program benefits not just the children and youth in this community but our undergraduate and credential students who are in teacher preparation or social work programs or fulfilling the requirement for an internship or a mentorship within their own curriculum.”

“The key to being a good mentor is being an empathetic listener,” said Paul Boyd-Batstone, chair of Teacher Education and a member of the university since 2000. “Successful mentoring requires a slightly different skill set than that of classroom teaching,” he explained. “Classroom teachers concentrate primarily on teaching content while they are managing classroom full of students. A mentor is a one-on-one relationship. They need empathetic hearts that want to spend time with individual students. Often, they will work on content together through Long Beach BLAST such as solving math problems. But they also value the time kicking a soccer ball around together. Sometimes it involves listening to boyfriend-girlfriend issues. Being a mentor requires an array of ‘soft skills’ and individual time commitment.”

Children and youth at different ages need different things from their mentors, said Grenot-Scheyer.

“At our annual fundraiser, the Breakfast Blast, a mentor-mentee team always addresses the audience about the importance of having a mentor,” she said. “What contributors and supporters at the breakfast hear is ‘He helps me with my homework’ or ‘she plays basketball with me.’ It’s not all about the academics. Academic support is enhanced by the developing the relationship with trust.”

One key to the College of Education’s mentoring success is coordination between the faculty and Long Beach BLAST, which turned out to be a really good match, according to Boyd-Batstone.

“Students were able to perform their early field experience in schools. It is a nice benefit for both of our programs. CSULB coordinates with LB BLAST to provide teacher candidates with experience in classrooms and after school programs. The Long Beach BLAST provides on-site supervision. They keep track of hours and provide orientation to the school site to the CSULB teacher candidates. Our work together has been mutually beneficial.”

“There is no better satisfaction than realizing that the work that we’re doing will benefit the youths who will be our future students,” said Grenot-Scheyer. “This works so well because of our partnership that goes across education, business and civic communities. We are all working for the success of our students. It gives me great joy.”

Boyd-Batstone encourages the CSULB community to strengthen its commitment to mentoring.

“Mentoring is one of those things that works best beginning with the mentor,” he said. “Currently, I sit on a doctoral committee for a candidate who is looking at the benefits of mentoring from the mentor’s perspective. Some of the benefits include the motivation to raise one’s level of professionalism, there is also that personal gratification of helping a less-experienced colleague in the field, additionally the mentor learns new ideas and practices from the mentee. It is nice to talk about mentoring in altruistic terms, but in order to have a robust program for mentoring, it requires a system of support. Collaborative efforts like CSU Long Beach and Long Beach BLAST provide that system of support to mentor for student success.”