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West Ottawa students rewarded by state | People

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West Ottawa students rewarded by state
People, Schools
West Ottawa students rewarded by state

Diego Castro isn’t sure whether it was the homework assistance or the lessons in life that helped the most. He just knows that having a mentor through West Ottawa High School’s Positive Beginnings program has kept him on track toward graduation.

Castro and Jose Cantu, both juniors at West Ottawa, were recently rewarded with iPad2s by State Superintendent Mike Flanagan for being able to overcome obstacles and stay focused on graduating, as part of the state of Michigan’s Superintendent Dropout Challenge. Both are part of Positive Beginnings, which matches high school freshmen needing help with mentors who promise to work with them at least two hours a month.

And both credited their mentors with helping to keep them focused on their goal.

Castro said he wasn’t doing very well in his freshman year before he was paired with mentor Frank Coronado. Coronado, he said, not only helped him with his homework during their time together at school but also called him at home to talk about staying focused.

“I got to talk to him and found out we had some things in common, like we both have to work hard to achieve our goals,” Castro said. “He told me to stay away from trouble and to stay away from people who were going to get me in trouble. Just being able to talk to him helped.”

The state’s Dropout Challenge is designed to reward students who overcome obstacles and stay on track toward graduating. But Don Clavette, West Ottawa High School assistant principal who founded the Positive Beginnings program, had more stringent criteria when he was asked to nominate students for the state reward. Clavette insisted they pass every class, which Cantu and Castro have done.

“The goal of Positive Beginnings is for the mentor to get to know the kids and show an interest in their learning,” Clavette said. “Kids want adult attention. They look forward to their mentors coming in every month.”

Clavette said the need for mentoring is great. Two years ago, he identified 119 incoming freshmen as needing mentors, based on their having failed a class or being repeatedly absent from school. That number has dropped to 41 this year, but that’s still far more than the 16 mentors who have volunteered to spend at least two hours a month with a student.

Under ideal situations, he likes mentors to remain with their student throughout their high school years, providing continuity.

Anyone interesting in volunteering to be a mentor can contact him at (616) 738-6719.

People, Schools

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