Haas Center launches new high school program for local youths

Haas Center program
Student participants in the Haas Center’s new high school program for local youths. (Photo courtesy Sophia Kim)

A new service program connects Stanford students with high school students from local communities as tutors, mentors and academic supports. The High School Support Initiative aims to empower local youth to excel academically, to take advantage of programs offered in their schools and to become advocates for themselves and their families. At the same time, it offers Stanford students the chance to engage in a meaningful educational service experience.

The program began in winter quarter with 30 Stanford students, ranging from freshmen to graduate students, volunteering with Gunn High School’s College Pathways Program, Menlo-Atherton High School’s MyLife program and Sequoia High School’s Sequoia Afterschool Focused Enrichment and Team Ascent programs. The programs serve students who would not otherwise have the same access to private tutors or out-of-school academic supports as do many of their peers.

Stanford student WEIRAN LIU explained why she got involved. “Students in the high school years are especially vulnerable. From dealing with social change and stress, to time management, to academic pressure, there’s a lot going on, and and sometimes all they need is another person to be there with them. What better person than someone who was in their shoes not too long ago? I am excited to meet students and make a real bond with them, get to learn from their experiences and share mine as well.”

Stanford students work with high school youth one-to-one or in small group settings, with training and support through the Haas Center. Activities range from tutoring in math and helping with homework to backing up a teacher in an English-support classroom and advising on the process for applying for college scholarships and financial aid.

MIRIAM MAGANA, director of MyLife at Menlo-Atherton High School, said, “For the last couple of years, we’ve had a hard time finding volunteers that are available during program hours. Our partnership with the Haas Center came at a perfect time, and we are excited to have the opportunity to work with such a caring group of volunteers. Our academic mentors come in ready to help with homework, studying and organization, but most importantly they make it a priority to get to know the students. This is a key part of the mentor role that they fulfill. We are truly lucky to have a group of volunteers who are committed to making a difference.”

The High School Support Initiative is one of five Education Partnerships programs offered by the Haas Center and community partners that provide academically enriching environments for youth from pre-kindergarten through high school to learn and thrive at key moments in their academic trajectories.

The program is the result of a rigorous two-year design process with local community youth, schools, local and national youth-serving organizations, alumni, and donors about the needs and assets of Stanford students and local high school youth. Based on the process findings, which are supported by current research on youth development and college access, the program includes a focus on the development of “non-cognitive” or “meta-cognitive” skills such as resilience, self-efficacy and persistence in their academics.

At the same time, the program offers Stanford students an opportunity to make a Cardinal Commitment and gain practical experience in the theory and practice of advancing educational equity. They receive comprehensive training to work with youth, build tutoring and mentoring skills, learn about local education issues, and can apply what they are learning in their volunteer placements.

The program is made possible through a gift from CHRIS COX, ’04, and VISRA VICHIT-VADAKAN, ’04, MA ’05.

Program director SOPHIA KIM said, “It has been heartening to facilitate many mutually beneficial relationships–between the school partners and Stanford, between the student volunteers and high school students and between our contacts at the schools and the Stanford students. All those involved have been excited and appreciative of being given the opportunity to build positive, fruitful relationships.”

Visit the Haas Center website.