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New Mentorship Program Gives Students a Home in Media

31 Dec , 2010  

Written by Bruce Dillenbeck | Posted by:

Alan Michel, Executive Director of nonprofit HOME, Inc., shares some insight into a media mentorship program that HOME, Inc. is starting, which matches high school students with media professionals in a year-long mentoring relationship.

HOME, Inc. (‘Here-in Our Motives Evolve’) is a 30-year-old non-profit organization that was founded to develop the talents of inner city teenagers, youth organizations and schools in media and communication. The heart of HOME, Inc.’s program is its Media Lab Partnerships (MLP), which last year reached over 1,500 middle and high school students in 11 Boston and Somerville schools. The staff at the Media Lab Partnerships are service year volunteers, young people who spend a year volunteering within schools and public internet centers to provide support that helps programs develop communications and media projects.

This past year, HOME, Inc. has received support from the Highland Street Corps Ambassadors of Mentoring, a program of Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP) to develop a mentoring program that will match promising high school students studying media with working professionals.

Bruce Dillenbeck, the Americorp Volunteer assigned to develop the mentorship program, interviewed the agency’s Executive Director Alan Michel, a nationally recognized leader in media education, about why he decided to launch a mentorship program.

Bruce Dillenbeck: How will HOME, Inc.’s mentorship program work?

Alan Michel: We are piloting the program at English High, located in Jamaica Plain. Our goal is to match students who are interested in the media with working professionals in the field. The most important opportunity here is to have a committed relationship and to help a young person navigate and understand the field. Mentors are expected to meet with their mentees at their place of work, which will give our students exposure to a real working environment.

BD: Why is HOME, Inc. developing a mentoring program?

Michel: Every professional working in today’s multi-faceted media industry has had someone in his life that mentored and advised him in his career, opened doors for him or otherwise acted as a friend and confidant. Mentors play a crucial role in guiding a young person towards his personal and career aspirations.

BD: What do you hope to accomplish by establishing a mentoring program for high school students?

Michel: I believe a caring mentor relationship is a means for kids to connect with someone in the field and get a deeper understanding of the media work environment. Our students are going through the critical years of adolescence and early adulthood, when young people can benefit from adult guidance. Mentors can help students clarify life goals and provide more specific advice as it relates to career paths in the media.

Most high school students are unaware of the multitude of career opportunities in the media — both in front of and behind the camera. Mentors who work in these fields can open our student’s horizons to the variety of opportunities and the skills needed to succeed in the industry. Beyond just simply educating students about these possibilities, mentors can help them secure internships or even jobs at media companies. These relationships are especially important in an industry where so many opportunities are based on personal connections.

BD: You work primarily with inner city students. What challenges do these students face?

Michel: Many of our students come from extended or immigrant families working in service or blue-collar jobs. As a result, our students have to work harder to develop additional relationships and access the resources that their middle-class peers growing up in Boston’s affluent suburbs take for granted. In addition, many inner city schools don’t make the necessary connections for their students to qualify for and get a job. Today, only about 60 percent of Boston high school students will graduate and of those that do only a small percentage will complete a four-year degree or gain enough certifiable experience to make it in the world of professional media today.

BD: What is the importance of a media studies curriculum not only to inner city kids but also to every public school student across America?

Michel: Working with media is essential for children to look at the world from an analytic perspective. Talking about and researching contemporary issues, coming up with a defensible point of view and actually producing media that reflects their analysis, prepares students to be responsible contributing adults. They not only learn important interpersonal skills like working as a team, but they also learn the technical skills required in our media rich culture, including internet research, writing, graphic design, and video production. This builds experience and confidence that they can excel and succeed. When students learn these skills at a young age, we’re preparing them for the challenges ahead.

BD: You’ve found that students who may be underperforming in other classes find their own voices when learning to express themselves through media?

Michel: Definitely. Students become more aware of issues and more constructive when they can see themselves and capable of tackling projects. They become much more insightful about the issues, particularly issues that they have been examining over a long period of time. They begin to develop better relationships with their teachers and other students during the process.

This is due to the fact that much of the learning that takes place is about a subject where they have a strong interest, and much of the learning occurs ‘just in time,’ when they have the need to know something. They are inquiring about the subject when they have to apply the information. And since projects happen over a longer period of time students have time to reflect and synthesize. It is much more powerful for the students to learn in this way.

BD: Are there benefits to mentoring other than guiding students to a career in media?

Michel: Mentor relationships are important in more fundamental ways. Having guidance and support can help a young person realize that he can accomplish things and overcome obstacles and succeed. Research has shown that at-risk young people in mentoring relationships are more likely to stay in school and develop positive attitudes toward work and society and show an increase in self-confidence and self expression.

BD: What kind of commitment do potential mentors need to make?

Michel: This is a year-long commitment. It takes some time for mentors and mentees to get to know each other and the real benefits come from a committed relationship. This usually means that mentors and mentees will meet one hour per week over the course of the year. Ideally we’d love to find mentors who are willing to develop an even longer relationship with our kids. Besides the weekly time commitment, there are-training workshops and occasional group activities with fellow mentors and their mentees.

BD: How can interested volunteers learn more about your program?

Michel: Well they can start by contacting you of course.

BD: Of course, why didn’t I think of that?

For further information please contact the author of this article, Bruce Dillenbeck at 617-427-4663 or go to HOME, Inc’s website at There you can download a mentorship application by clicking on the link “Opportunities.”

For further information please contact the author of this article, Bruce Dillenbeck at 617-427-4663 or go to HOME, Inc’s website at There you can download a mentorship application by clicking on the link “Opportunities.”