TROY, NY – 518 ElevatED, formerly a Capital Region Sponsor-A-Scholar, uses the transformative power of education and mentoring to equip students at Albany, Schenectady and Troy high schools with the resources and tools necessary for a more inclusive and equitable future required are. 518 ElevatED provides college readiness, academic support, tutoring, skill-building workshops, and career exploration through one-on-one counseling through high school and post-secondary education. In addition, local leaders and volunteers are matched with students through the mentoring program to provide an additional layer of support. 518 ElevatED held an official rebranding celebration at its new Central Avenue headquarters in Albany over the summer with local officials from the three cities in which it operates, celebrating 25 years of supporting the lives of local students, their families and of the community has improved.
Rensselaer County resident and President and CEO of 518 ElevatED, Laura Marx, shared more about the organization’s purpose, history and future goals in a recent Q&A with The Record.
1. How long have you been leading the organization and tell us what your goals are for the future?
I look forward to celebrating my fourth anniversary with 518 ElevatED next month. When I came to the organization, there was a clear history of providing consistent and effective service to underserved, low-income students across the three high schools. While the programming was good, there was more that could better prepare the students for their future. The focus shifted from simple studies to studying and, above all, preparing for a job. The key was to start early with providing the skills, tools, networks and resources. With small changes, we’ve gone from a 69% college graduation rate to a 77% college graduation rate, compared to the national average of 39% for the same student population. In the future, we hope to continue to close the degree gap and serve more students in different ways based on their needs and goals.
2. How are students identified and how can they be included in your programs?
The application process begins in the spring of each year. Students are identified by school counselors and teachers based on their grades, attendance and needs. Students are typically B-average, want to go to college after high school, and are willing to meet with an adult mentor on a monthly basis. Once they have completed the application on our website, a voluntary selection committee will invite suitable applicants for an interview. Selected students begin the program in the fall of their 10th grade. Depending on the funding, we accept between 24 and 30 new students every year, i.e. around 8-10 students per school. At any one time we have between 80 and 90 high school students and approximately 135 college students with whom we continue to work and support throughout their post-secondary education.
3. How can you respond to the individual needs of the students?
As part of the 518 ElevatED programs, students participate in weekly after-school sessions that provide an opportunity to check in with each student individually. In addition, during this time, students receive hands-on skill-building workshops, tutoring, career exploration, help with college applications and financial aid forms, and much more. By matching with an adult mentor, a screened and trained volunteer with 518 ElevatED, students are exposed to new opportunities, experiences and networks. Through organization, partnerships with the high schools, and supportive mentors, students receive full support to help them reach their full potential.
4. How does the mentoring program work?
Mentoring is an integral part of our comprehensive program. Once potential mentors complete an application and complete a series of screening, training and background checks, they are matched to a student based on shared interests. Mentors spend a few hours a month with the student through face-to-face activities and texting or phone calls in between. Mentors receive ongoing training and support from our staff and other mentors in the program. Mentoring is a meaningful way to make lasting changes in someone’s life. We often hear from mentors that they benefit as much, if not more, from the mentoring relationship than the student.
5. How can people get involved with 518 ElevatED and support local students?
There are many ways people in the community can get involved with 518 ElevatED. Board membership or committee positions are often available. We regularly have guest speakers on various topics or career paths who come to our after-school sessions to share their knowledge and experiences with the students. As students transition into the workforce, they solicit connections with adults in their area of interest for informational interviews.
Additionally, as a private non-profit organization funded by the generosity of individuals, corporations and foundations, we are always striving to expand our business partnerships and sponsorships for our programs and events. If you or your organization are interested in learning more or getting involved, we’d love to explore with you.