Diana Alger, high school counselor and Strive coordinator, and Lisa Coe, Rotary Strive coordinator, told Vicksburg Rotarians about the success the Strive program has achieved in Vicksburg High School over the years. The program is jointly sponsored by the school and the local Rotary club. Its goal is to graduate seniors who are at risk for low achievement; Strive uses an active mentoring system to help raise their grades and provide motivation.
“Last year, all of the Strive students walked at graduation,” Coe explained. “This program is making a difference. The students see that they can do something with themselves [if they keep working at it]. The mentors keep students on target by counseling them and being supportive, which may not have been there for some of the kids.”
They receive gift cards for grade increases, and even cash for achievement, Alger added. “We have one student with perfect attendance now and that is recognized at the end of the semester during our group meeting.” The students and mentors meet usually on the first and third Thursdays of each month depending on the high school calendar.
At the end of the school year, scholarships are handed out to top students have brought their grades up the most during the school year. This past year, KVCC awards a one semester full ride scholarship along with $1,000, $750, and two $500 scholarships that are presented at the graduation banquet. “The kids become supporters for each other with some friendly competition,” Coe told the Rotary Club. “There was something of a stigma attached to joining the program earlier, but now it is recognized as a scholarship program and the group is even mentioned in the yearbook.”
“It’s not difficult to be a mentor,” Rotarian Jim Shaw recalled from his experience mentoring for many years. He and his wife Virginia say patience is the big thing. Students need to hear from someone else in the community. These friendships can carry on well after graduation and are very meaningful he said.
Costs of the program are underwritten by Rotary’s Beef Raffle each year. Oswalt Family Farms, represented by Rotarians Gordon and Scott Oswalt, donate a beef to the drawing with chances selling for $10 each and only 750 tickets sold. There are four winning tickets pulled from a hat for a quarter of the donated beef. The raffle concludes with the drawing at the Homecoming basketball game on February 13, and raises over $4,000 in support of the Strive program.