AmeriCorps Mentors Celebrate Graduation, Embrace New Horizons

Wednesday May 29, 2024

The Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS) AmeriCorps Mentoring Program recently celebrated the graduation of its latest cohort of mentors. Over the past year, these individuals have not only made a significant impact on the students they served but also experienced profound personal growth, showcasing how serving your community can help in gaining the confidence to pursue passions and further educational goals.

The KCSOS AmeriCorps Program has become an invaluable resource in Kern County. Through the deployment of mentors across various school sites, the program provides crucial one-on-one support to students, assisting their academic and personal development and fostering positive learning environments. Approximately 30 mentors were placed this year at different schools, reaching hundreds of students and supporting two dozen school sites.

Since the program’s inception, the impact of these efforts shows that between 60 and 80 percent of mentees show improvements in attendance, behavior, and social-emotional capacities. According to Geoffrey Welch, AmeriCorps program coordinator, these achievements showcase how mentors are dedicated to supporting students and improving their educational outcomes. 

The graduation ceremony, which took place on Friday, May 24, at KCSOS’s City Centre building, honored each mentor for achieving 1200 hours of mentorship over the last school year. Additionally, regions within the mentoring program were given the opportunity to nominate fellow peers for superlatives such as “Most Organized” or “Most Reliable.” Toward the end of the ceremony, Welch and Program Specialist Isabel Romero gave out challenge coins to three deserving individuals who went above and beyond the call of service. 

Challenge coins symbolize membership, achievement, camaraderie, tradition, recognition, and honor within an organization or group.

This year, the KCSOS AmeriCorps Program recognized Julia Ferguson, a first-year mentor at Elk Hills, Gabriel Alvarado, a first-year mentor at Greenfield Community School, and Sophia Castro, a fourth-year mentor at Mira Monte High School. 

“Challenge coins symbolize membership, achievement, camaraderie, tradition, recognition, and honor within an organization or group,” said Welch. “This year’s challenge coin recipients were truly the best of the best, and I couldn’t imagine three better people receiving it.”

Alvarado was selected to receive a challenge coin because of his commitment to the program. According to Welch and Romero, he embodies the spirit of AmeriCorps and is dedicated to his mentees despite a tough choice that almost caused him to leave earlier this year. 

“I derive immense satisfaction from assisting my mentees not only in their academic pursuits but also in navigating the challenges they face,” said Alvarado. “Witnessing the joy on their faces as they recognize their progress is gratifying and reinforces my sense of purpose. That’s why when I had a choice to leave AmeriCorps, I knew in my heart that I needed to finish what I started.”

Alvarado has also volunteered for various community service projects and events totaling over 250 hours over the last year. One of these commitments includes spending many nights volunteering at HolidayLights at CALM. Elizabeth Graff, CALM’s volunteer and community engagement facilitator, says Alvarado was one of the best volunteers she has ever had, noting he was always willing to do whatever it took to ensure the event went smoothly each night. 

Romero says Alvarado’s story is just one of many, as many have similar paths. In fact, many graduating mentors, including Alvarado, have been accepted into Master’s or teaching credential programs for the coming year, citing AmeriCorps experience as giving them the confidence to pursue these advanced degrees.

The program’s impact also extends beyond the school environment. Each year, mentors participate in annual service days on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Cesar Chavez Day. They collaborate with local community clubs and organizations to coordinate service projects, such as a recent food drive in Lake Isabella. These initiatives not only benefit the students and schools but also have a positive impact on the broader community, fostering increased community engagement and access to educational resources.

“This is such a great opportunity for anyone who wants real-world paid experience working in a school setting or even to give back to their own community,” said Welch.

Looking ahead, the KCSOS AmeriCorps Mentoring Program looks forward to continuing its mission of supporting students and empowering mentors as it begins recruiting for the next school year. For those interested in making a difference, more information about the application process, requirements, and benefits of volunteering can be found on the Kern Mentoring AmeriCorps website.


By Jennifer Bryan

By Jennifer Bryan

Jennifer Bryan joined Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2021 as a Communications Specialist. As a creative and motivated marketing communications specialist, she has a special knack for storytelling and content creation. Born and raised in Kern County, Jennifer has worked in major industries within the region such as agriculture and oil and gas before she made the transition to education.