Reach Out! - Linking U. of M. & Community Mentors with Children & Teens

Who We Are: Karyl Shand

Karyl at FestiFall 1999 Friends bringing in friends is a common recruiting tool for Reach Out! Karyl came to us in 1996 through her friendship with Alicia Pinderhughes and stayed for more than four very productive years. Over time, she evolved from a volunteer mentor to our coordinator of academic mentoring at Pioneer High School, a program that grew and developed in power along with her. She was also the spark behind program initiatives to expand mentoring to include career and personal exploration, which we tried through several formats.

As mentoring coordinator, she oversaw recruiting, matching, ongoing support, and orientation for mentors; interacted with teachers and parents; and, of course, touched base with the teens being served. She mentored her own set of teens over the years, as well, even teaching some algebra and chemistry for Community Resource credit and accompanying one on a college visit.

From 1996 through her graduation with a BS in Aerospace Engineering in December 2000, Karyl supervised nearly 400 mentors, almost all working one-on-one with teens. As administrators and teachers at Pioneer got to know and trust her, the school provided a Reach Out! office in its counseling area and contributed stipend money for coordinators both during the school year and in the summer. This shows true stakeholder development!

Karyl with PHS mentee Karyl tried very hard to transform an academic tutoring program into true mentoring. As part of this effort, she developed terrific materials and training for mentors to help their teens with analyzing their own learning styles, personality and temperament types, and career-related aptitudes. When it appeared that the pairs were too consumed by academics to spend much time on these matters, she searched for alternative delivery systems. She pioneered self-discovery workshops for teens. The first was a slumber party for girls at The Neutral Zone teen center. Others were advertised and held at Pioneer High's Career Center with great help from its director. Because more individualized attention seemed needed, she and Reach Out! sponsor Jeannine LaSovage developed a six-week career mentoring program matching volunteers from the Downtown Ann Arbor Kiwanis Club with teens. The first time, this required a lot of training and support for mentors, especially those who had never before used a computer! Two years later, we have faithful mentors who take on new teens every year (often going way beyond the parameters of the program design to provide the guidance and shadowing experiences they think their teens need), plus ongoing financial support from the Kiwanians for this and other programs. We have truly become partners with them in serving area youth.

Karyl and Greg, RET Karyl is a perfect example of the effect of Reach Out! work on personal development. Her leadership abilities grew with the responsibility she took on as a coordinator. She learned from the many roadblocks what it takes to persevere and to make such a program a reality. She dealt with mentors not showing up, students not showing up, students wanting to con mentors into doing their homework, parents being angry about their children not seeing improvements in grades or not being matched as soon as they wanted, teachers at a loss for how to help a teen, coaches who wanted their entire teams mentored, and teachers who didn't want their computer labs used for anything outside of class. Karyl worked with CUOS outreach staff to establish a model database and evaluation/assessment system for the program. As mentors expressed concerns on how to help their teens with personal concerns from dating to eating disorders, she worked with the principal and parent coordinator to create a resource directory list and mentor Web site, which now includes on-line tutorial and study skill links, as well as career and college planning directories. She presented her mentoring program to Governor Engler's staff, communicated with UM's service learning office, met with Ann Arbor school and central administrators, attended Pioneer open houses, met with teachers and parents, and in general worked to forge relationships in service to teens. Throughout all of this work, she served as a model for caring and working effectively to help others.

She also came to question how she ended up trained as an engineer. Even though our retired Kiwanians used to say with great delight that something "doesn't take a rocket scientist, but our Karyl is one," she found that her heart lies elsewhere. She is one of our most eloquent spokeswomen against the "pipelining" of talented young women and minorities into careers in science and engineering. In all our career and personal discovery programs, she has insisted that we respect teens' individuality and not steer them into "fields that need bodies." Naturally, we hope that the opportunities we give children to have fun with and gain confidence in their ability to "do" science, plus our direct support of their technical studies and the exposure we facilitate to exciting technical careers, will result in many young people deciding to pursue such studies and careers. But we will not—because we see how it has adversely affected so many of the college students we have come to love and respect in Reach Out!—push them where they do not freely choose to go.

Karyl has gone on to "real life" in Atlanta. We hope to lure her back when we can afford to pay her a living wage, as she has ambitious plans for establishing more effective math and science teaching methods. Meanwhile, she is willing advise by e-mail anyone interested in how to start a high school or teen center mentoring program: contact karylshand@yahoo.com.

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Last updated 9 Aug 01