Who we are and what we do at Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate.

Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate is the flagship mentoring program of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. Our program relies on the relationship between mentor-advocates and students as the foundation for providing a variety of individualized students. BRMA students benefit from mentoring, advocacy, tutoring, enrichment opportunities, leadership development, and college scholarships. Mentor-advocates help determine a student’s strengths and interests, and the program provides support that will help develop those to their full potential.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the BRMA program. If you have other questions, please feel free to contact us.

Why do we need BRMA?

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools have a strategic focus on improving the achievement of African-American and Latino students. These students have not performed to the same level as their White and Asian peers in our schools. In 1994, the Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Achievement of African-American Students made a recommendation that the school district sponsor a mentoring program to provide assistance to some of these students. In 1995, Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate was launched in response to that recommendation. BRMA continues to be one of the district’s many efforts to support these students as they progress through our schools.

How does BRMA work?

The role of the BRMA program is to provide students with the adult support they need to attain their personal and academic potential. The mentor-advocate plays a dual role, establishing a meaningful relationship with a young person as well as promoting the child’s success in school by working as an advocate in conjunction with the child’s family and school personnel.

Children are carefully selected for the program because of their ability to benefit from the increased support it offers. The neediest students are not necessarily chosen to participate. Rather, students who are chosen have shown particular promise, perhaps in the form of motivation, citizenship, academic ability, or determination. Students must also show a desire for additional interaction with adults, and their families must be willing to support the program through involvement with the mentor. Students enter the program in fourth grade, and we continue to support them through graduation from high school and enrollment in postsecondary education.

Likewise, adult volunteers are carefully selected to serve as mentors. Volunteers make a two-year, two hour minimum per week commitment to a child. All volunteers must attend pre-service training and make regular reports to the program on the progress of their match. In exchange, the program offers volunteers multiple forms of support to enhance their effectiveness as a mentor.

How do students get into BRMA?

Students are referred to Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate during their fourth grade year. We are looking for students who have three strengths:

  • Untapped potential that a mentor could help develop over time
  • Actively seeking out adult attention
  • A family that is willing to participate in the program, including working directly with the mentor on school advocacy

We encourage parents who are considering having their child enroll to watch this video.

Students must be enrolled in a Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools elementary school. The school social worker at each school coordinates the referral process and is limited in the number of students they can refer in any given year. Parents and external service providers cannot refer students directly to BRMA. Once students are referred to the program, we try to find a mentor for them for one year. If we do not find a mentor for the student within one year, we do not keep them on a waiting list any longer

How does BRMA differ from other mentoring programs?

Mentors are found in many settings, including businesses, universities, and schools. Goals for mentoring programs are as numerous and varied as the programs themselves. Within our community, programs like Volunteers for Youth match mentors with court referred youth and Big Buddies act as friends to the children with whom they are matched.

The role of the mentor-advocate is unique in that the adult assumes some responsibility not only for the child’s personal growth, but also for helping to put in place educational supports that contribute to the student’s academic success. Additionally, BRMA stands out from other mentoring programs because of our intentional effort to support students over the course of 8+ years.

What are the components of BRMA?

Mentoring – The one-on-one relationship is the fundamental component of the program. The mentor exposes the child to new experiences while also helping the student pursue his or her interests and talents.

Advocacy – Mentors and parents collaborate to support their student by working within the school and community to develop and utilize resources that support the student’s success.

Tutoring – Students have the opportunity to receive tutoring in community-based, evening tutorials. Tutorial sessions include peer support, college exposure, and creative learning activities. For more information on tutoring, please see our Academic Support page.

Social and Cultural Enrichment – The program sponsors social and cultural events for mentors and mentees. Scholarship funds are also used to provide opportunities for student engagement in activities such as summer camps, arts lessons, and athletic leagues. See our Social and Cultural Enrichment page to learn more.

College and Career Exposure – Students are provided with regular opportunities to explore options for attending college and pursuing the career of their choice. BRMA sponsors college tours, workshops, and assistance through the college application and enrollment process. Mentors provide students with individualized guidance throughout a student’s time in the program. See our College and Career Curriculum page for more information.

Parental Involvement – BRMA provides direct support to parents through individualized assistance intended to support their child’s success in school.

Youth Leadership Institute – The Blue Ribbon Youth Leadership Institute operates a leadership summer camp and year-round service club that encourages students to develop their leadership skills through service-learning activities. This program serves more students than just those who are officially part of BRMA.

Scholarships – BRMA provides scholarship funds for students who wish to pursue post-secondary education. The Haidt Scholars fund is an endowed scholarship that aids in paying the tuition of a student attending a four-year college or university. The Sponsor a Scholar fund uses community donations to assist students who wish to attend any type of post-secondary educational institution. Learn more about our scholarship programs here. If you would like to make a contribution to Sponsor a Scholar, please see our Donate page.

What is the theoretical model behind this innovative program

Our program is strengths-based and longitudinal. We emphasize activities that build on students’ strengths and interests, helping them build a foundation that will solidify over time into the basis of their educational pursuits and career interests. While we provide intervention services when needed, we emphasize building strengths in ways that make intervention less necessary over time.

We provide multiple supports, each based in mentoring and advocacy. Everything we do has to include three of our eight program components. Two of the three must be mentoring and advocacy. Our best efforts include five or more of the components in one piece of programming.

We believe deeply in the power of building bonds across our community. Our mentoring program connects volunteers and students across multiple lines of difference. Our Youth Leadership Institute turns the tables, connecting our students with opportunities to provide service to people in other parts of the community. We feel that these connections weave a tighter social fabric that improves all parts of our community.

Individual and systemic advocacy are of equal value and necessity. We are always advocating for the needs of our individual students. We also believe that it is of critical importance to take what we learn from in-depth involvement in our students’ lives and apply it through systemic advocacy. BRMA frequently looks for ways to include the voices and experiences of our students in policy discussions at local, state, and federal levels.