Samuel Beltran: Partners Program

Samuel Beltran: Director of the Partners Mentorship Program
Education: Williams College, BA Harvard University, MA in Education

What is the Partners Program?
The Partners Program provides transformative programs that bolster academic achievement and improve access to educational opportunities and resources for under-resourced Oakland public middle school students. To do this, we bring middle school students together with trained high school and college mentors, with the goal of furthering educational equity and success for all.

What are the main programs Partners offers?
Partners is a comprehensive three-year, tuition-free, academic enrichment and support program, beginning the summer after their 6th grade year until the summer before they enter high school. The Partners Program consists of three distinct components: Summer Academy (SA), Academic Year Mentoring (AYM), and High School Advising (HSA). All program services are completely free-of-charge for our families.

Summer Academy: Each Summer the Partners Program holds an intensive full-day, 4-week experience for rising 7th, 8th and 9th grade students. During Summer Academy our Partners Scholars take math, English, socio-emotional learning, art, dance and STEAM coursework, participate in weekly clubs and attend interactive educational field trips.

Academic Year Mentoring: During the academic year, Partners pairs our 7th and 8th Scholars with a trained high school mentor to work on homework and study skills. Academic Year Mentoring (AYM) is held once a week for Scholars after school. To support learning and foster engagement we use adaptive online software, teach financial literacy, and prepare Scholars for standardized tests.

High School Advising: In our High School Advising (HSA) program, Partners staff work with each scholar and their family to find the high school that will be the best fit. Staff will provide letters of recommendation, accompany families to high school visits, and assist with all application materials and financial aid applications.

What is the Peer-to-Peer Anti-Hate training at Partners?
College Prep student mentors are an integral part of Partners and its mission to serve Oakland public middle school students in academic summer and afterschool programs. Veteran student leaders applied their anti-hate training in the creation of a peer-to-peer student training program for new mentors.

Partners has always provided training for our student mentors, including those who participate after school during the academic year, as well as during the Summer Academy. The training focuses on cultural competence, culturally responsive teaching, implicit bias, and anti-hate. Every year, we look to evolve that training program any way we can and improve it according to the context of the times. This year, four of our veteran student mentors came to us with a request to apply the anti-hate and No Place for Hate Coalition training that they had received through SEAT (Student Equity Action Team). Their idea was to share with new Partners mentors the training they had received, and engage in peer-to-peer mentoring. These student leaders initiated the conversation and worked with us to integrate their content with the training program we already had in place. We went through their presentations with them slide by slide, and now have created training templates that we can use with our new mentors.

What kinds of activities are included in this new peer-to-peer training?
The student trainers were very organized around how to address each topic. For example, they addressed the concept of “white savior complex,” the idea that—at independent schools—the dominant culture feels it can swoop in and save under-resourced communities. First they explained the concept itself, and then they had scenarios in which the trainers engaged in roleplay. They acted out various scenarios of a College Prep mentor tutoring a public middle school student. In these small skits, they modeled how a conversation would go if they were culturally competent and cognizant of white savior complex as they interacted and communicated with the mentee. Then afterward, since all of these training were conducted over Zoom, they went into breakout rooms to dissect and comment. Each of those Zoom rooms were led by one of the four student trainers, where they had an open conversation about the scenarios. One of the main goals with this kind of training is learning how to build trust with our middle school student mentees because trust is a key factor in culturally responsive teaching. Our peer-to-peer trainers sharing their expertise and personal experiences helped new mentors see what cultural competence looks like when applied in real-life situations. 

How many student mentors were trained with this new program, and what kind of feedback have you gotten?
There were about 35 student mentors in the training, including 20 “veterans” who participated in the program as well. Even though these veterans have a lot of experience, they found it valuable too. After the training, all the mentors filled out a survey. We asked them about the model and content, about how the presentation was organized between the four student leaders, and what they thought of the facilitation. We got a lot of positive feedback on the content and the holistic approach to helping them understand their own backgrounds and any implicit bias they have going into mentoring. The students also appreciated the peer-to-peer model, which is really in keeping with the core of Partners itself. Many students commented on the practical advice they received hearing directly from our veteran mentors on what it’s really like to tutor young public middle school students from very different backgrounds. Overall, the newcomers felt highly trained and equipped to deliver when the actual mentoring began a week and a half after the training.

Do you see this peer-to-peer training for mentors continuing in the future?
Yes. We want to keep it as an important component in our training modules now that we’ve implemented it both in the Summer Academy and in the after-school program during the academic year. Also, it’s a great opportunity for students to apply what they’ve learned as trainers in other circles like SEAT and affinity groups. Often students will be trained, but they might have to wait until college to apply it. Now they can apply it immediately. That’s a big part of why it’s so important to do this regularly as part of our training practice. The next training session is coming up in February for the spring semester of mentoring.

mens conscia recti

a mind aware of what is right