Pearland School District's "RISE" Program connects mentors with students in need

Mentors can provide positive outcomes for the youth, but many students lack the guidance they need.

According to the National Mentoring Partnership, one in three young people will grow up without a mentor outside their family. It's why the demand for more mentors in schools is steadily growing. 

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The Pearland school district is committed to connecting caring adults with students in need through its RISE program. 

For the past eight years, Amy Coiner has mentored Allison once a week for 30 minutes. The two share a special bond that started when Allison was in the fifth grade.

"I'd been bullied because my anxiety, pretty much since I started school, like kindergarten," said Allison Schrenk.

She says she struggled to talk to her parents about what she was going through, so they turned to "RISE" where she was uniquely matched with Amy, who would soon become a constant force of support in her life.

"She's always so cheerful and giving me hugs and just smiling. It just brightens up my day, because positivity to me is really important in managing my anxiety and managing my depression, " said Amy. 

Even as Allsion prepares to finish her senior year at Turner College and Career High School, the pair still meet weekly to play games and talk. 

"She's come such a long way. It's neat to see her grow. She's become so much more confident, she's making so many friends," said Amy.

Amy has been there through the highs and lows, building trust, and a connection that's helped Allison make great strides.

"Just trusting her has taught me how to trust other people, how to notice signs of people who are going to be beneficial for me versus people who are going to be negative for me," said Allison.

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While Amy admits she doesn't have all the answers, lending a listening ear has made all the difference.

"As parents, we don't always want them to necessarily get the wrong information from their peers. So, I think building that trust is important, because she has felt comfortable, whether it's a text or message or a phone call or when we meet you know, ‘hey, I need to talk about this,’" said Amy.

RISE provides volunteer mentors like Amy, to more than 500 children in Pearland schools. Student Support Counselor, Xochil Hinshaw, who's been with the program since it started nine years ago, is proud to see the growth and believes every student deserves the opportunity to soak up advice and get the support they need. 

"They have so much potential, they might need guidance for a career, so I think that's the beauty of it is that it's very individualized. It's not just for certain types of students." 

The goal is to stay with mentees for a year, but often mentors, like Amy, get to become a part of their journey for years to come. 

She'll get to see Allsion graduate and attend the University of Houston's Honors College to study architecture and perhaps one day become a mentor herself.

"If someday I can help some other scared little girl who's afraid to speak up about her problems. She doesn't recognize her own self-worth, who doesn't know how to recognize good people in her life. Wholeheartedly like loudly from the rooftops? Yes, I would be so happy to be a mentor for her." 

Becoming a mentor can be a two-way reward. All it takes is 30 minutes out of your day--once a week. Volunteers must be over 18 years old and will be required to pass the district's background check.

Click here if you'd like to learn more about becoming a RISE mentor.