Using teachers as the points of contact in overcrowded classrooms, Community Mentor Network (CMN) observes students and identifies those middle-schoolers and high-schoolers who are struggling, then offers real help.
“We talk to them and get them engaged,” said Founder and Executive Director Newton Robinson. “They might be failing a particular course, like English or Science, or they’re falling behind in their assignments. We deal with those situations first by helping them with their studies.” Students come from every neighborhood and background.
If observation is Phase 1 and helping with homework is Phase 2, then personal mentoring is Phase 3. “They have issues at home and social issues, maybe a mental health situation,” Robinson said. “We teach them how to transition from home to school on a daily basis.”
Robinson built this program from a similar outreach effort he was involved with at Intel in which employees volunteered to mentor students. Now retired from Intel, Robinson started CMN with a cadre of committed volunteers and a 501(c)3 designation in 2008. He has since reached out to Mayor Keller’s It Takes a Village program through ONE Albuquerque for grants and UNM’s PATH program for medical students.
“The PATH students are the brightest of the brightest,” he said. “They have GPAs of 3.5 or more. These are 11th- and 12th-grade students. They live on campus for two weeks. They study with mentors to learn as much about the medical fields as they can. We take them into the emergency room, we show them what a trauma center looks like on any given day,” Robinson said. “Then they write a paper on any medical topic and present it to the UNM Board.”
Students who don’t reach this level of scholarship are of great concern to CMN. “Our community is suffering from drugs and crime. My organization wants to educate those individuals who are at risk for involvement. We are also challenged to take those young people who are at risk due to aging out of the foster care system,” said Robinson. “Whatever the students need, that’s what we focus on.”
To that end, CMN is looking for corporate partners that can help generate a fresh group of mentors and a vision. They not only need more mentors, they’d like more donated computers, corporate sponsors and fundraising opportunities. Right now Robinson recruits help from outfits like Sandia National Laboratory, churches, leadership councils, fraternities, banks and credit unions. “I’m hitting wherever I can to get good, professional mentors who love to see our young people achieve their goals.”
CMN’s own long-term goal is to stay in touch with every student and to model life skills for these students through early adulthood, like financial literacy, job hunting and the ins and outs of homeownership. This organization also has the potential to become a national effort to get at-risk students through their high school years and into college.
“We would like to branch out. I would love to get it to a national level,” Robinson said. “The model looks complicated but it’s very simple. Having a mentor is a strong and trusted relationship.” (communitymentornetwork.org)