The USD 259 Future Ready Advocate Mentoring Program, founded in the 2021-22 school year  to provide a way to reduce the number of young Black men being suspended from school, is gearing up for its third year of operation, says founder Dr. William Polite, director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Accountability for the district.

“Our biggest goal is to shut down the drop-out to jail pipeline,” Polite says. 

Polite said the program served about 450 students in 21 middle and high schools last year, and he expects it to grow again this year.

The program differs from many mentoring programs in that it is school-based but addresses all aspects of a student’s life and that is a  school department. All mentors are paid by the school district and are employed full time.

“We follow the young folks both in school and out of school, whether in sports or employment or other activities,” he said. “A change since we started is that we now work in middle schools as well as high schools and we have female as well as male mentors.”

Because it is connected to the school district, mentors can work with a student’s classroom teachers or coaches and can utilize the resources of the district for students who may need other services such as tutoring in specific subjects or intervention for learning disabilities such as dyslexia.

In addition to Polite, the mentor department includes Coach Larry Allen, Michael Lewis, Hercules Finley, LaVell Jackson, ODell Harris, Tony Johnson, Desirae Thompson, Caylin Loggins, Mario Barnes, Tyrone Berry, Keith Reynolds and Joe Mitchell.