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Beating the Odds: How Mentorship Sustains Underrepresented Populations Entering the Education Profession

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The following post is contributed by Carolyn Walker Hopp, Holmes Program Coordinator at the University of Central Florida and Whitney Watkins, president of the Holmes Scholars Council and doctoral student at the University of Central Florida. This post is the second in a four-part series curated by the The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education on behalf of Education Week TopSchoolJobs' Career Corner Blog.  

Kera Tyler, Education Week TopSchoolJobs

Mentorship is a catalyst for growth in many facets of our lives. Whether it be for personal or professional advancement, it is important for everyone to have seasoned individuals to call on for guidance and reassurance.

Students from underrepresented populations, who often face obstacles related to their minority status in society, stand to benefit from strong mentors--particularly ones who share the students' culture or other background. When navigating in a community that doesn't look like them, students can develop greater confidence in their ability to succeed when they have the support of someone who has already done so.

As the education field strives to attract more diverse professionals and to better retain those already in the field, programs that provide mentorship support are of great value. The AACTE Holmes Program is meeting this need along the educator preparation spectrum, supporting historically underrepresented students pursuing careers in education at the undergraduate, master's, and doctoral levels--and now even in high schools.

When doctoral students are named as Holmes Scholars, for example, they are matched with mentors both within and outside of their program. This focus on supporting their research and scholarship begins immediately. Throughout their programs, they are also encouraged to give presentations while continuing to conduct and refine their research. Not every doctoral student has this kind of opportunity with consistent mentoring support.

Participating in a community of scholars, professionals, and advocates encourages students to explore their deepest abilities and apply that exploration to their work to enhance their self-confidence and self-efficacy. The mentors light the way, connecting students with strategies and resources to help them build the paths to their chosen destinations. In addition to official mentors, Holmes students benefit from a rich peer group that allows them to share and support one another in their journeys, often developing robust networks of mentoring relationships across the program's institutions and levels.

Mentorship programs such as the one embedded in the Holmes Program's foundation serve as a great example for administrators to imitate at the school and district level. Mentors teach. They support, they care, they share wisdom. The goal of mentoring is to model the pursuit of excellence and to help students see themselves not only as educators but eventually as mentors themselves. This culture of leadership, learning, and support endures through the active Holmes alumni network that continues to sustain participants through future professional challenges. The model's success is evident in those who continue the tradition, as many return to fortify the next generation of students in their quest to become--and remain--education professionals.

For more information about the AACTE Holmes Program and how you can get involved, visit http://aacte.org/programs-and-services/holmes-program.

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