A program that matches community volunteers with local college- and career-bound high school students is seeking more mentors to help pare down a waiting list.
ASPIRE — Access to Student assistance Programs In Reach of Everyone — matches volunteers with students at several local high schools, including two-dozen teams at South Medford, said volunteer mentor Rebecca Smith.
Yet some students still are on a waiting list hoping to be paired up with an adult who can help them prepare for college or a career.
Smith, who is a regional administrator for U.S. Bank, said she typically spends one lunch hour a week at South helping two students with career searches, college resumés and volunteer opportunities they can add to college applications.
"There are many kids that genuinely don't have a caring adult in their life with time," said Smith, who's been volunteering at South since 2006. "It's not that they don't care. But the time."
Continuing a four-year tradition, U.S. Bank recently donated $2,500 to the Medford Schools Foundation to support the ASPIRE program at South. (Correction: The amount of the donation has been updated in this story.)
The bank has donated $15,000 to the program since 2008.
Smith said volunteering for the program has been rewarding, and she has watched several students move on to college.
One of her students couch-surfed while attending South as a junior and senior, but seemed determined to make it to college.
"He was so determined to go to school," Smith said. "And he was a kid with such limited resources."
Smith said the boy ended up graduating from South and getting accepted into Montana State University, where he began studying music and plans to become a music teacher.
ASPIRE mentors usually are assigned two students per year and meet with them on campus several times throughout each term.
Mentors are expected to commit one to four hours of time each month.
"The goal is to just be someone who listens actively," Smith said.
Smith said she was an assistant director of admissions at a small, private college in California before working at U.S. Bank.
The experience gave her some knowledge of the college admissions process, but Smith stressed that some of ASPIRE's best mentors are local working people with no background in college admissions or mentoring.
Those interested in becoming a mentor at South Medford can call 541-842-5398.
Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.