August 11, 2016

The mentorship movement: Anaheim’s AIME brings opportunity to students and business

It is hard to find a more inspiring mentor than Earl Woods. A decorated Army veteran, Woods played a pivotal role in the groundbreaking golf career of his son, Tiger Woods, by passing along his love of the game and mentoring his son into the greatest golfer of his era. So when city, education and business leaders in Anaheim set out to create a student mentoring program in 2014, we didn’t have to go far for inspiration.

As part of the Tiger Woods Foundation in Anaheim, the Earl Woods Scholarship Program promotes the success of college students from low-income areas. Many are the first in their families to attend college. Mentoring is at the heart of the program. Getting to college is hard enough, and graduating is even tougher. But students are five times more likely to graduate with the help of an adult mentor.

As a Tiger Woods Foundation board member, I saw firsthand the important role mentoring plays for students. In fact, the experience provided the spark for our new program, Anaheim’s Innovative Mentoring Experience, or AIME. AIME is a partnership of my office, the Anaheim Union High School District and businesses in and around Anaheim. It grew out of a larger collaboration to prepare Anaheim students for the 21st century. So far, more than 750 students have been mentored as part of AIME with a goal of seeing thousands more take part in years to come.
In Anaheim, mentoring is becoming a movement. After seeing the success of AIME, Orange County United Way graciously provided financial support this summer for 50 high school students to take part in eight-week paid summer internships. The student interns worked with mentors at the City of Anaheim, the Anaheim White House, Cal State Fullerton, Kaiser Permanente, St. Joseph Health, Bunzl Distribution, Wells Fargo and others.
At the City of Anaheim, 14 students interned at our police department, the Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim Public Utilities, Public Works and in the Office of the City Manager alongside myself and our City Council. The students developed lasting relationships that they can draw on as they embark on their college careers. As a city of kindness, Anaheim is committed to helping our youth benefit from mentors. The relationships that mentoring fosters can change a student’s life and help them grow as part of their community. AIME has been successful because students were instrumental in its creation.
In fall 2013, my City Council colleagues and I were presented with a petition signed by more than 5,000 Anaheim high school students. The students sought our support in addressing how they could better prepare for college, careers and the demands of today’s advanced economy. Soon after, the City Council adopted a resolution supporting the spirit of the petition and declared Anaheim as California’s first P21 city committed to helping students develop in five areas: communication, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and character. The fifth “C” — character — is unique to Anaheim to stress the value of kindness as key to helping students in service to others and building a stronger sense of community. To implement the national goals of P21 locally, I convened a taskforce of Anaheim business leaders, educators and city administrators.
Inspired by the Earl Woods program, I proposed a mentoring program of our own to introduce students to professionals in various fields in and around Anaheim. Everyone agreed. Businesses would benefit from students bringing fresh insights on social media, technology and youth consumer preferences to their workplaces. I have had the pleasure of meeting with businesses leaders and enlisting their support for AIME. Every executive I met welcomed the opportunity to have their employees invest time and resources in this effort.
As we found at Anaheim, the experience of mentoring is a win-win. Interns provided valuable assistance with social media, website and graphic design, community outreach, event planning and research. Just as importantly, we got the chance to mentor, teach, counsel and help young people at a key stage in their lives. As a city of kindness, it was the least we could do. The best part? The kids we have the pleasure of mentoring today will be the mentors of tomorrow. To be sure, mentoring is a virtuous cycle that pays dividends for years to come.

Champions of the unexpected for 20 years.