The Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate program, a mentorship program designed to close the racial achievement gap in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, has returned for the 2023-24 school year.
The program has provided CHCCS students with educational and career opportunities like mentoring, tutoring, advocacy and leadership development since its founding in 1995.
Camille Berry, a Chapel Hill Town Council member and a BRMA mentor, said each student or “scholar” maintains a relationship with a mentor throughout their primary schooling. Some start in elementary school and some get paired later, but they all stay in contact with their mentor until high school graduation.
“The hope is that a mentoring advocacy relationship with that student can persist and endure until they graduate, and then perhaps beyond,” Berry said. “I have met some partners where they have done that — they have gone beyond that.”
Sarah Poulton, a senior project manager for the Town of Chapel Hill and a BRMA mentor, said mentors take on many roles. She said responsibilities include helping navigate the college application process, advocating for in-school accommodations and engaging in social activities.
Though much of her recent time with her mentee has been college-focused, Poulton said they spend time together informally too.
Lorie Clark, the coordinator of student leadership and engagement for CHCCS, said the program has also been holding mentor training for a new cohort of mentors to be matched with scholars in the next month.
“I think they're excited about making a difference in the community and getting to know a scholar,” Clark said. “Our program is a strength-based program, and so we stress that the relationship is mutually beneficial.”
She said BRMA currently works with about 70 scholars — 60 of whom are currently matched.