Bill Godwin’s new nonprofit organization, The Student Mentor Project (TSMP), is a program that will give scholarships to college students (currently UC–Berkeley) who commit to and perform up to three-years of mentoring at any number of TSMP approved fourth- through eighth-grade mentoring programs in Oakland/Berkeley and other areas of need. Bill Godwin is passionate about his cause and shared his story in hopes of inspiring others in the community to help as well.
What inspired you to start The Student Mentor Project?
First, while visiting San Francisco and the Bay Area many times from 2007 until our move from Salt Lake in 2013, the homeless issue became immediately obvious to me. Also obvious was the huge and growing amount of money that was being spent on this issue, costing California and its citizens billions of dollars every year, with no long-term solution in sight. I wanted to understand why so many are homeless, and while the reasons of course are varied, including mental illness and financial loss, my discussions with many seemed to lead to one common denominator—they never really had anyone, during their middle school lives, who encouraged them to do well in school and many of them ultimately dropped out of high school. Clearly, my “research” was simply anecdotal but has been since backed up by legitimate research done on homelessness.
Around this same time, I was approached at an Oakland street fair by someone who was recruiting mentors for a local afterschool mentoring program. I asked them how many mentors they needed, and the response was, “You send them; we’ll use them.” So I went to orientation at this program and learned that their program alone was short 150–200 mentors every school year. I also learned that at-risk youth in the fourth through eighth grade who had a mentor, had a 78 percent higher high school graduation rate, higher self-esteem, and more benefits compared to a
other at-risk students.
After our move to Berkeley, while driving, walking, and biking through UC–Berkeley for various reasons, I realized that I was staring at a very large pool of intelligent, motivated, successful, available, potential mentors. In addition, it didn’t take long to learn that most of them were receiving some sort of scholarship and/or loan. After discussing with friends, family, and some local UC resources and mentoring organizations, I decided to develop what has become The Student Mentor Project, with the ultimate goal of putting an end to solvable homelessness at the source…at-risk youth!
How will you choose the participating students?
The college students will be selected from applications returned through the UC–Berkeley scholarship office. They will be chosen based on need and willingness to sign on with the program. Once selected, they will then select a mentoring organization from a pre-approved list of organizations. They will go through the organization’s orientation and qualification process. Once the mentor candidate has been assigned a mentee, the mentoring organization will let TSMP know that that person has qualified, and the student will get the first scholarship payment for the first semester of commitment. The fourth- through eighth-grade mentees are selected by the mentoring organizations.
How will the students benefit from the program?
The college students will benefit from receiving up to $10,500 in scholarship money for their education expenses. The fourth through eighth-grade at-risk students will get the immediate benefit of having a consistent, long-term mentor. Based on the studies, this relationship will most likely lead to life-changing benefits for the mentee.
How can people from the neighborhood help?
Donations from residents of the Claremont neighborhood and beyond will help support the scholarships that drive the project. No less than 95 percent of the donations received will go toward scholarships. I have kicked things off with contributions for the first five scholarships. Connections would also be very helpful – to potential corporate and foundation sponsors. If a neighbor can open the door to one or more of these connections, I will do the rest to sell the importance of this project.
Please visit http://studentmentorproject.org to learn more about this program or call Bill Godwin directly at 510-833-9552. Thank you in advance.
Bill Godwin, founder and board president of The Student Mentor Project, retired from a successful career in the building products industry, culminating in 2011 with the selling of his 20 year old business in Utah. During that time, he sat on many industry boards, won numerous industry achievement awards, and was selected in 2003 as The Manufacturers Rep of the Year by the leading industry publication. Bill has a BA from UCLA and an MBA from Pepperdine University. Bill, with his wife Kathy, retired to Berkeley California in 2013, where Bill started to conceptualize that the financial needs of UC Berkeley students, and the mentoring needs of at-risk youth, could be tackled concurrently with the founding of The Student mentor Project, a California 501c3 corporation.