Mills was selected Feb. 15 as one of 50 national semifinalists by Washington Campus Contact and Ispireum (creator of SISA) for her effort to address social and environmental challenges facing her community, according to the award’s website. Mills, among other Linfield students, was nominated for the award by Community Service Coordinator Jessica Wade. Only Mills was chosen to compete for the chance to receive an academic scholarship and grants for the program sponsored by Linfield Career and Community Services.
The LCMP was designed by Mills to partner college mentors with at-risk elementary and middle school youth in the McMinnville School District. The project stemmed from a previous mentoring program under the Yamhill County Prevention Program in jeopardy of disappearing as a result of budget cuts. Mills saved the program by moving it to the Linfield campus and inviting previous members to continue.
“Without Rachel, the mentoring program would be dead,” Linfield AmeriCorps Vista Volunteer Lizzie Martinez, ’09, said.
Martinez, a former mentor under the YCPP, assisted Mills in developing a new policies handbook, applications and training manuals for practicing members with help from Wade. Mills said she had to start from scratch creating a program that legally
complies with Linfield and McMinnville School District policies as well as maintain the basic ideals of YCPP.
Mills said 90 percent of Linfield students who apply to the program get in, and she is looking for students who can be a consistent presence in their mentees’ lives.
“The program is designed to provide positive role models for at-risk students,” Mills said. “We’re not taking seniors because we need people to commit for at least a year.”
The LCMP aims to match McMinnville students with college mentors based on similar interests. Mills said one mentee with an interest in music was paired with a student who volunteered after the music department was contacted for potential members. Mills said this is one effective way to recruit mentors but that there are applications are available online.
“I love watching the program grow,” Mills said.
She said the program has been successful so far, but they are always looking for new volunteers. She said she also believes LCMP would benefit if selected for the award.
“I’d really like to try and provide more support to the mentors and opportunities to do more outside activities from the school,” Mills said, “[With the grant money,] mentors and mentees could go to the movie theaters or a Blazer’s game.”
The SISA winner, runner-up and fan favorite will be chosen by a national selection committee of civic leaders along with a fan vote, and announced on March 15. The winner will be awarded a $5,000 academic scholarship award; the runner-up and fan favorite, $2,500 each. The top three winners will also be given a $2,500 grant for both the college-service learning center and non-profit partners involved in the program selected. Mills is currently waiting to move to the top 12 finalists to be announced March 4.
Felicia Weller, copy editor, firstname.lastname@example.org