Saturday, Aug. 29, 2009 | 1:59 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Nevada State College’s Project Crossroads, a mentoring program for at-risk middle school students, is expanding this year to help an estimated 180 students at 14 schools in Henderson and surrounding areas.
Project Crossroads began in 2007 as a 14-student pilot program and has since grown as a result of increased funding from private individuals, such as Cannery Casino Resorts Principal Bill Wortman, and a grant from the Nevada Public Education Foundation.
The program partners with Area 2 of the Clark County School District, which covers the southeastern part of the Las Vegas Valley.
In addition to its increased size, Project Crossroads this year will offer a $500 scholarship to any student who participates, graduates from high school, and goes to Nevada State College, said Dr. Rene Cantu, vice president of multicultural affairs at Nevada State and manager of Project Crossroads.
“Our focus is to help seventh and eighth graders who are having academic challenges to get the help and motivation they need to get back on track, finish high school and go onto college,” Cantu said. “It’s a population that’s very much in need of assistance, without which they would be prime candidates for dropping out.”
Cantu said Project Crossroads attempts to get students excited about their education by bringing them to Nevada State’s campus in Henderson four times throughout the school year, where they are exposed to college life and its possibilities in the form of mini-lectures from carefully selected professors and other activities.
“We’re really trying to motivate them and show them that there is something out there for them,” Cantu said.
Most of the work, however, is done by about 40 Nevada State students who volunteer as mentors and regularly visit the middle school students throughout the year to encourage them and help them with their school work, Cantu said.
He said Nevada State chose to work with middle school students because they are a frequently underserved population.
Cantu said most existing programs for at-risk students focus on the high school level, but “the problems begin way before they get to high school. The earlier you can intervene and get students back on track, the better it will be for them.”
Hilarie Robison, executive director of the Nevada Public Education Foundation, said the work of Project Crossroads will be an important part of the foundation’s Ready for Life initiative, which has set a goal of raising high school graduation rates in Nevada by 10 percent by 2013.
“Helping our young people succeed in middle school and high school is critically important in their going on to college,” Robison said. “… The work Nevada State College is doing through Project Crossroads directly supports our work.”
CORRECTION: This story was updated to differentiate the Nevada Public Education Foundation from the Public Education Foundation, which is a different organization. | (August 31, 2009)