It wasn’t hard for them to see that there was also a local need for a summer program to help students acquire the skills to thrive in high school as well as college. “It’s not just academics,” Gina said. “Skills like public speaking, managing stress, even filling out forms can be really daunting for children.” And the world is changing so fast that many of the pressures on middle and high school students are unfamiliar even to their parents. In many cases, the students involved are hoping to be the first generation to attend college.

That’s the beauty of teaming up with college mentors, Bryan said. “They really like working with the younger students, and many of them find they have a passion for it.” Testimonials from the older students say the experience has made them aware of the importance of mentoring and establishing a safe place to discuss sensitive issues like race and class, all while developing leadership and confidence in the mentors as well as the teenagers.

The summer program is designed to help 9-12th grade students find their path toward college by providing individual guidance, service projects and internships geared towards future goals, test preparation, and general academic advice. They’ll also meet other students in workshops that teach time and stress management, leadership, entrepreneurial experience, personal determination, and confidence building in-group settings. The individual and group sessions will be offered several times a month during the summer. Gina said the project has already forged great connections with local teachers and counselors during the past year in the school-based program.

Anyone is eligible, Bryan said: “We have students from every imaginable background.” Because of the non-profit status, the cost of the service is tax deductible. 

The importance of establishing confidence in our young people is summed up in the motto the Christ’s have chosen for their business, a quote by Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” And there are more statistics supporting the wisdom of mentoring. Young adults at risk for falling off track but who had a mentor were 55 percent more likely to enroll in college, 78 percent more likely to volunteer regularly, and 130 percent more likely to hold leadership positions. “This really works,” Gina said.