Mentorship Program Provides Community, Guidance for New OTCs

Grade 9 SuccessNetwork Collaboration and Learning

On-Track Coaches (OTCs) are youth development professionals who serve as advocates for a targeted group of up to 60 Grade 9 students, for whom they provide deep and sustained support. The OTC position can look different depending on school level needs (some OTCs function as teachers or counselors, others are part of the RISE Network team) but all maintain the critical focus of supporting Grade 9 students’ success in high school.

At RISE, Senior On-Track Coach Sharina Jimenez leads a mentoring program to connect school partner OTCs in their first or second year of this position with veteran RISE Network OTCs. The objectives of the program are simple: share resources to help new OTCs reach their goals, give encouragement and feedback to problems of practice, provide clarity on the responsibilities of the OTC roles, and ensure that they feel supported and connected to the network. 

But how do we achieve these objectives? 

To start, Jimenez kicked off the 2023-24 academic year by hosting a virtual “role-alike” session focused on clearly defining the various types of OTC roles and the responsibilities that are consistent across the board, and grounding the work in network-wide goals for student on-track rates, “B’s or Better,” and Extended Day Programming attendance. The group also established Q1 priorities, particularly around student caseload development.

This work is important for OTCs, as they play an integral role in supporting students who have demonstrated attendance, academic, social, and/or behavioral risk factors in middle school. Leveraging our unique risk and opportunity data and protocols in the RISE Data Hub, OTCs can start in a strong position in Q1 by gaining a deeper understanding of the students in their caseloads, including their specific challenges and needs.

In December, the first and second-year OTCs again gathered with RISE OTCs for a virtual strategy session, where they reviewed Q1 on-track data, brainstormed strategies for Q2, and revisited the Data Hub to go over features that would support their work. 

In addition to these role-alikes, which will include a third session in Q3, RISE mentors check in with their school partner mentees on a monthly basis to provide ongoing support and feedback. 

“The OTC position is so unique,” said Jimenez. “These checkpoints throughout the year help build relationships and camaraderie. They allow first and second-year OTCs to share where they need support and help them understand everything from milestones and priorities to new strategies and protocols.”

The OTC mentorship program, now in its second year, is already having a significant impact. 

Vicky Thong, an OTC at Middletown High School, said “Being a part of the program has made me feel a part of a team and supported in my everyday work. RISE provides me with tools, data, and knowledge to strengthen my role as a school counselor.” She goes on to say “Having the time and space to exchange ideas and consult with other OTCs has helped me immensely in becoming acclimated to the role.”

Hannah Barrett, fellow OTC at Middletown, agrees. “With the help of the OTC mentorship program, I learned exactly what was expected of me as an OTC,” she said. “I found it extremely helpful to collaborate with other OTCs on interventions, resources, and the overall insights they had gained through their years of experience.” 

Such thoughtful and effective collaboration across schools is indicative of the philosophy of the RISE Network as a whole. We believe that we amplify our individual and collective impact when we work together to address shared challenges and goals. The OTC mentoring program does just this, strengthening the connection between the various professionals working across our network to achieve the singular goal of excellent and equitable student outcomes.