Mobilizing Young Mobile

Idea Leader: Colton Bradford

Location: Mobile, AL

Partner Organization: Mobile Area Education Foundation

Project Summary: Colton Bradford, 18, worked on a county-wide survey of all high-schools to compare campuses including a student exchange between rural and urban schools. The second part of his focus was the establishment of a GradBuddies program at Satsuma High School to develop peer mentors for struggling students which will be replicated in schools across the county.


Gradbuddies Mentoring Program Helps Mobile Students Focus on Graduating

Two years ago a student at Satsuma High School in Mobile County, Alabama, was asked to serve on the Superintendants Student Advisory Council or SSAC. After one year of serving, Colton was asked the question, "How do you think you could decrease the dropout rate?"  After brainstorming for a few minutes an idea came to him that would eventually change the way freshmen students looked at high school. His two part response was to have a county-wide survey of all high-schools to compare the differences and similarities at each school, and to create a program that at-risk of failing freshmen could meet weekly and be tutored by junior and senior academically and socially successful students, thus creating the program, GradBuddies.

GradBuddies was launched in January of 2011 after a two month search and interview process for the candidates to be mentors and mentees. The selection of the freshmen mentees was based on G.P.A.'s (Grade Point Average), interviews, and by teachers who recommended the program to freshmen . The selection process for mentors were G.P.A's, leadership skills, teacher recommendations, and an interview conducted by the PTA advisor, principal, and a teacher. After the lengthy selection, the fun began, matching students both mentors and mentees based on similar interests. After being in the program for a few weeks, the GradBuddy team realized that partnering up opposite personalities created the best results of academic achievement.                                                                                              

Satsuma High School Principal Deborah Altman said, “This is a program that is fully operated by the brightest students on campus. I believe that it enriches some of the morals of the students by getting to work one on one with another student."

The program received much help from the campus administration as well as the local administration when local Satsuma City Councilman Bill Black came to speak to the class on the importance of education today. Something that Councilmen Black touched on was not to get 'wrapped up' in sports and focus on grades first.

We saw first-hand that over six of the mentees were student athletes that had been placed on academic probation and forced to sit out games.

Taylor Sullivan, a freshman baseball player and mentee said, "GradBuddies has helped me through many things with my freshmen year. I definitely think that it has helped me look up to the student leaders we have on campus and to know I always have a helping hand."

Taylor, and the remaining freshman athletes, were all put back on the teams in time to finish out the year. Coach Dana Evans has two players that were mentees and two that mentored the freshmen.

"I made a deal with my players who are participating in GradBuddies that if they are showing academic improvement from the GradBuddies program, they are secured a spot on the team next year," said Coach Evans.

One of the things the Superintendent’s Council plans to work on next year is to launch GradBuddies at all thirteen high schools across Mobile County so they can help decrease the dropout rate in Mobile and nationwide. The Superintendent’s Council also worked on school equity and represented the opinion students felt on any issues facing the public school system in Mobile. The students of the Superintendent’s Council feel that they play a vital role in the decisions made by the Superintendent and the Mobile County School Board.                                                                                  

“They’ve made a little idea that I had over a year ago come to life,” said Colton Bradford. “I've gotten to watch something that I thought would never happen, become a reality. I hope that students all across the U.S. will continue to look for ways to help decrease the dropout rate because we are the future. We are tomorrow.