By Linda Barrington
Having a broad base of support in your state is important in allowing the mentoring program to develop and be well received. Although financial support is essential to provide a yearly stipend to each mentor, networking is equally important to give the program visibility and credibility as broadly as possible.
In Wisconsin we began by approaching the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, already a provider of fall workshops for new journalism teachers and advisers. Their foundation granted us the funds for two mentors for the first two years of the program.
We then contacted our regional scholastic press associations to garner their support. Both the Kettle Moraine Press Association and the Northeast Wisconsin Scholastic Press Association agreed to suggest retired teachers as mentors and new advisers as mentees. In addition, KEMPA will offer to the mentees free KEMPA membership, waiver of the registration fee for Fall Conference and scholarships for its Summer Journalism Workshop. NEWSPA will offer free membership for mentees and fee waivers for their 2008 conference.
In Wisconsin the area of journalism falls under the umbrella of English Language Arts, so our next stop was a visit to our Department of Public Instruction. The ELA consultant embraced the program with enthusiasm, writing us a letter of endorsement for mentors to use when contacting schools. She also connected us to the editor of the Wisconsin English Journal, who agreed to let me write an article about the program so that even more teachers across the state would be familiar with it. The DPI licensing consultant encouraged us to keep our Cooperative Service Agencies in mind when we expand the program enough to hold mentor training right in our state. They may be able to fund the training through state grants.
Our last stop was at the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators. The assistant executive director was interested and excited about the program, especially the speed with which it was implemented. She is including information on the program in the monthly newsletter to all administrators. I prepared a flyer about the program that was geared to principals and she put one in each folder for the participants at the senior high principals’ annual conference in January. In addition she shared their program for corporate support, which could be a model for a program of our own: a way to support and strengthen our mentoring program through business partnerships.