Marie Frances Rivera, Class of 2006, is Program Manager at SMILES. “The name our organization is SMILES,” she says, “which stands for the Southcoast Mentoring Initiative for Learning, Education and Service. Our mission is to provide a mentor for every child who needs one in the Southcoast of Massachusetts. We are presently focusing our service area in the two urban cities in the Southcoast, New Bedford and Fall River. We go through many different avenues to recruit responsible, caring adults from these communities to serve as one-on-one mentors for 4th-9th graders. Our mentoring program is school-based, meaning that the mentoring sessions take place at the students' respective school. Right now we have about 300 mentors in schools in both cities.
The background or you could say the reason why SMILES began was to combat the low education attainment rate in this region. For our educational attainment to be even with the rest of Massachusetts we would need an additional 14,000 people to graduate high school. We knew no one from Boston or Washington D.C. was going to come down and solve our problem for us. That is why we are engaging the citizens of our community to be the change they wish to see in their community. Not only are we serving the children by providing them mentors, but we're also giving mentors a different perspective that they have probably not had before. So really it's a win-win for everyone.
We are presently looking for 600 mentors in both cities; equally to 1,200 mentors in total by the end of this school year.
This is our website: www.smilesmentoring.org.”