Learning By Doing This School Year: Mentorship Innovations at The Henry Ford

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We are inspired this week to showcase one of the deepest dives into mentoring and workplace learning we have seen at The Henry Ford based in Dearborn, Mich., transforms the lives of 24 high school students each year in Detroit.

According to The National Mentoring Partnership, young adults who were at-risk for falling off track but had a mentor are 55 percent more likely to enroll in college and 130 percent more likely to hold a leadership position.

Recognized nationally for its success, the Youth Mentorship Program is changing the status quo and exemplifying Henry Ford’s philosophy of “learning by doing” by offering at-risk teens the opportunity to develop meaningful life and work skills while fostering positive relationships with adult role models. These students are usually behind in credits and need assistance “catching up” to graduate on-time.

This experiential mentoring program gives students a chance to earn additional credits and life experience by spending the second half of each school day working with a full-time employee of The Henry Ford, whose staff volunteers to serve as mentors’ volunteers to serve as a mentor.

The team shared that during the 2015-16 school year, student’s grades improved by 53 percent and 90 percent of students are expected to graduate high school.

We recently caught up with an inspiring leader Patricia E. Mooradian President & CEO, The Henry Ford to hear about their initiatives reaching at-risk students:

Julie Kantor @Twomentor: Albert Einstein said don’t let school interfere with your education. Henry Ford said “There is joy in work.” You have teamed up with the schools to change the trajectory of kids’ lives. Can you paint a picture of what you are building at The Henry Ford (Museum)?

Patricia Mooradian: The Henry Ford’s Youth Mentorship Program (YMP) originated in 1990 and has served approximately 250 students. The students we serve have been identified by their counselors and principals for being at-risk for graduation.

When Henry Ford created the Edison Institute, as The Henry Ford was called then, he believed in the importance of learning from the past to create a better future. He believed that people should learn history in a hands-on environment. Most importantly, he believed in the power of objects—artifacts—as sources of inspiration for people to absorb and to use in an effort to make their own mark in this world.

At The Henry Ford, we provide our Youth Mentorship students with a program that focuses on Work-Based Mentoring and opportunities to shadow our museum employees.  This experience encourages critical thinking, creative problem-solving and social skills and allows the students to succeed outside the traditional classroom..

JK: Is this really the European Apprenticeship model with designated mentors?

PM: There are absolutely great similarities. It’s no secret that a great majority of people thrive in a “learn by doing” environment.

It is the mission of The Henry Ford to provide context for the stories of innovation so that learners of all ages can see themselves as having the potential to be the doers, makers, thinkers, creators, innovators and entrepreneurs of this generation and generations to come. Our Youth Mentorship program gives these kids that immersive environment to thrive in while teaching them the importance of effective communication, conflict resolution, time management, teamwork and collaboration and problem-solving. We strive to help ease the transition of life after high school.

JK: Can you tell us a story or two about the impact both on your employees and the high school students engaged.

PM: Timothy Palloni, a Youth Mentorship Program student from 1994-1997, tells an incredible story of growing up in a troubled, transient lifestyle. Children are blank canvases. “I learned how to steal a car. I learned how to break into people’s houses. I learned how to do fraud. I had no guidance. It’s all I knew,” Palloni states. Without the stability he received from the Youth Mentorship Program, Palloni admits he would either be dead or in prison, or on the verge of both as he would have continued down a path of crime and destruction. Palloni says that the stability he received from the YMP and The Henry Ford helped him learn that it was his anger holding him back from his true potential as a teen.

 As part of the YMP, Palloni was introduced to horses on Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village. Today, he is a professional Equine Trainer for national and international competition.

Tiarra Kelly, a Youth Mentorship Program Alumni from 2013-2016, is another great success story. Kelly struggled in school, academically and behaviorally, before she was referred to the Youth Mentorship Program. “Looking back at my situation, I always thought it was possible for me to do more. I found my comfort zone with the Youth Mentorship Program and knew I needed to start carrying myself differently.” While in the program, Kelly gained additional credits and transitioned from Tinkham Educational Center, the Alternative High School in the Wayne Westland District, to John Glenn High School, where she graduated with a 4.0 and was accepted to seven universities in the state. Kelly currently attends Eastern Michigan University.

JK: How are the kids selected?

PM: The students we serve have been identified by their counselors and principals as being at-risk for graduation. Once students have been identified, they are able to participate in group and individual interviews with YMP staff to determine if they would be a good fit for our program. We currently work with three high schools in the Wayne Westland Community School District, and try to equally serve students from each.

JK: Any plans to scale the program?

PM: The Henry Ford’s Youth Mentorship Program does cater to a small group— approximately 12-15 students per semester. The students have the ability to participate in the YMP for a semester or longer depending on what their schedule allows. Although small in numbers, we believe the group size allows for more one-on-one opportunity.

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Patricia E. Mooradian began her career at The Henry Ford in 2000 as Vice President & Chief Operating Officer; becoming President in 2005.  She leads the development, articulation and promotion of a clear vision and strategic plan for THF and ensures excellence in the daily operation, exhibition, program development and delivery, and maintenance for all THF venues.  She raises local and national awareness and appreciation of THF as the nation’s premier history destination. In addition to positioning THF as a leading national institution, she also raises contributed funds for general operating support, programs, endowment and capital projects.  Prior to joining The Henry Ford, Mooradian was Regional Marketing Director for The Taubman Company overseeing the marketing strategic plan development, and brand management of regional shopping destinations across the country.

Julie Kantor is CEO of Twomentor, LLC, a high impact training company focused on talent strategies for a diverse workforce. She spent 20 years serving at-risk youth as former Executive Director of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship in several markets. Julie and her team values mentoring cultures, building diverse sponsorship initiatives & an entrepreneurial mindset. She is experienced working with Fortune 500 Companies, SMBs, Universities, NGO’s and offer facilitated (and fun) mentor + sponsorship training, Mentor Road Trip™ Flash Mentoring, best practice strategy and keynote speaking. Plug in to our unparalleled network in the entrepreneurship & STEM ecosystems to drive change. Learn more here

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