Nikki Lansford
Editorial Assistant

Northeast Alliance Together (NEAT), a community development corporation based out of the Mattie Rhodes Center at 148 N. Topping Ave., is looking for volunteers to mentor Northeast High School students for a new career mentorship program.

The program is projected to begin around the middle of March and will last until the end of May. With 33 students participating in the program and only five potential mentors currently signed up, the organization is looking for more people to have enough mentors to pair with each student.

“We’re trying to find local professionals that we can pair students up with who match their interests so that they can work with them one-on-one,” said Sierra Faust, AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) for NEAT and program developer.

The mentoring sessions will occur once a week and be around an hour long. Faust said scheduling will be relatively flexible, as the time and dates will be decided between mentor and mentee themselves.

“They could do in person or Zoom, whatever they feel like they want to do,” Faust said. “I would hope that at least one of their meetings would be in person so that the student can do a shadowing situation.”

During the meeting sessions, mentors are encouraged to discuss the daily operations and responsibilities in their field of interest and the education pathways into their careers.

Volunteers are not required to have any previous experience with mentoring, but are expected to be able to pass a background check.
Faust said after surveying the students, some career paths they expressed interest in were business management, arts, hospitality, nursing, and veterinary work although NEAT is looking for a wide variety of career mentors outside these fields as well.

The program has only been in the works since early February, so some of the details, such as an exact start date and if the mentors will have to go through any type of training, are not worked out yet, Faust said. The hope is to at minimum have enough mentors matched with students by the time they go back to in-person classes this month.

“We do realize that we’re trying to move very quickly,” Scott Wagner, Director of NEAT said. “But the hope is that if we’re able to get some success here with the remainder of the school year, then that puts us in a good position to build for the next school year.”

Those who volunteer are only obligated to mentor students up until the end of this school year, but Faust said if they have a good experience and are getting along well with their mentee, then they could possibly continue it into the summer or the following school year.

Wagner said the idea for the program came about after NEAT approached Northeast High School with the goal to further the organization’s work in job and career readiness programming.

“We have wanted to try to see what we can do to work with Northeast High School for a while,” Wagner said. “One of the things that we heard from the high school leadership was that many times students do not think about their careers until after they’ve graduated.”

To alleviate this issue, the two entities worked together to form this career mentor program. The program, Wagner said, gets high schoolers thinking about their future career while still in high school by providing them with opportunity and experience they do not currently have.

In addition to a lack of career readiness, Wagner said the Northeast High School leadership noted an issue of transportation for some of the students recommended for the career mentorship program.

“Older siblings are sometimes missing the bus because they’re staying to make sure their younger siblings are going to school themselves because the parents are working, or whatever the case may be,” Wagner said.

As a means to combat this problem, NEAT is currently working to provide these students with transportation as part of the mentorship program. This aspect of the program is, again, in its early stages of development, but Wagner said ideally a few of the vehicles that Mattie Rhodes owns will be used to transport these students to school in the near future.

“The ability to help that older sibling get on a good educational and career pathway is one that not only then works for that young person, but also is shown to their younger siblings as well,” Wagner said.

Due to the need to officially launch the new program quickly, both Faust and Wagner stressed the importance of getting mentors on board as soon as possible. NEAT is looking for a variety of volunteers in order to be able to match each student with a mentor that has a career in something the student finds interest in.

Those interested in becoming a career mentor can reach Sierra Faust directly at (816) 520-7115 or