Opportunity Nation – Mentors Must Focus On Assets

Opportunity Nation partner Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center is Corporate Social Responsibility initiative of the American Honda Education Corporation, a nonprofit subsidiary of the American Honda Motor Company. Eagle Rock is both a school for high school age students and a professional development center for adults, particularly educators. The school is a year-round, residential, and full-scholarship school that enrolls young people ages 15-17 from around the United States in an innovative learning program with national recognition. The Professional Development Center works with educators from around the country who wish to study how to re-engage, retain and graduate students. The center provides consulting services at school sites and host educators who study and learn from Eagle Rock practices.

Eagle Rock is unique for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is a residential program. All of our students did not experience success in previous schools and many had dropped out prior to enrolling with us. When they come to Eagle Rock, they find themselves in a school that invests a significant amount of time in deliberately nurturing ourselves as a learning community. We have spent a great deal of time planning and reflecting on our school practices and on our effects on culture. We use asset based community development that recognize what students have to offer rather than focusing on their deficits (drop-out, gang affiliated, addicted, etc.). Opportunities to hear students’ voices are intentionally built into the governing and mentoring structures of the school.

Through mentoring we are building students’ capacity to exercise leadership for justice, so when they sit in on staff meeting and they help hire new staff, their student voice is very important. When students have the ability to really own their experience and take responsibility for their actions inside and out side of the classroom, that can make all the difference. Focusing on the assets of students at Eagle Rock allows for leveling of the playing field for our most vulnerable and disenfranchised students. Rather than focusing on what they don’t know or aren’t good at, we are able to start with what they bring to the table. And to believe that each and every student has something to offer, regardless of circumstance or ability, can reengage disengaged youth.
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[3]Opportunity Leader and Associate Director of Professional Development Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center Dan Condon shares the importance of mentoring Opportunity Youth.

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