By: Megan McGaha
RMM is a for-profit social enterprise that pays high school students to mentor younger students with similar interests.
Started in Ridgefield, CT just a few years ago, the program aims to educate “the whole child”, featuring customized sessions that go beyond academics to sports, music, or other interests, as well as “dealing with social issues and challenges, balancing school and life, managing technology, manners and respect, and ‘hacks’ relative to the school, teachers, coaches and situations that we are familiar with because we were just there,” according to their website.
The program and has expanded to 32 states and 450+ towns in the last two years. CEO Derek Correia said he wants to make it available throughout the entire U.S., and eventually the world.
“We have over 3,000 mentors who have applied, and roughly 50% of those have completed their vetting process and been approved.” he said. “We have three mentors in the town of Butler and a few hundred in NJ. We’re always looking for more great students to apply to our program!”
Correia said many parents initially come to RMM seeking academic help for their child. In other cases they may seek organization skills and study habits, and some are looking for training and development in a sports, music, or another extracurricular interest.
“They find that the better engagement and dynamic sessions that occur because the mentor is closer in age makes the sessions more effective, while also saving substantially vs. the cost of adult tutors or trainers,” he said.
Now that mentorship is better understood, Correia said many parents also seek the social and emotional learning aspects of developing their child. They want their child to build character, self-confidence, empathy, and resilience.
“Many parents feel their child is struggling socially, including things like social anxiety, social media issues, spending too much time gaming or on screens in general, and not thriving overall,” said Correia. “Often times, struggles in school or lack of interest or engagement in extracurricular activities is rooted in social and emotional issues.”
But the program doesn’t only benefit the younger students. According to their press release, “RMM’s year-round mentoring program is run locally by high school students who use our platform to manage their own mentoring business, gaining valuable entrepreneurial skills along the way.”
The program has a convenient app, too, where parents can select the academic or extracurricular focus for their kids and be matched with a teen mentor. Parents can schedule sessions, receive session recaps and progress updates, and chat directly with student mentors.
Correia said most mentors are recruited directly or through student referrals. Most are bound for top colleges and universities, and all are carefully vetted.
“They go through an online application process, and once they make it through that, they download an app which takes them through a more rigorous screening and onboarding process, including providing details on their grades, honors and AP classes, extracurricular activities, answering interview questions, and providing both peer and adult references.” he said. “The final step is a phone screen from a member of our Mentor Advisor team.”
On the job, Correia said the mentors use positive reinforcement with the younger students.
“Talking about contexts and shared stories of going through some of those same issues can be incredibly powerful in helping the younger student embrace their uniqueness, recognize their gifts and what makes them special, and have a more positive outlook towards school and life,” he said.
It can be tricky for mentors to juggle a mentorship business, academics, and their extracurriculars but Correia isn’t worried.
“In general, the kinds of kids who want to become mentors are the kinds of kids who figure out how to make it work. The good news is the program is super flexible, and they can make a difference in as little as 1-2 hours per week, vs. traditional jobs that require much more time…They benefit significantly from the program as well, as these skills are critical to their own success in college and beyond.”
Correia said Morris County is a great area for the program, “with enlightened parents who understand the benefits of whole child development, and earnest, high-achieving H.S. students eager to share what they’ve learned to help a younger student succeed.”