• Urban Educator logo

True2 U Mentoring Program Kicks Off in Cleveland

  • Tru2U, a mentoring program that reaches all eighth-graders in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, got off to an energetic, inspiring start this school year – a trip to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and words of wisdom from hip-hop artist Dee-1. Dee-1, a middle school math teacher turned inspirational rap artist, addresses CMSD eighth-graders during True2U kickoff.

    True2U’s volunteer mentors help approximately 2,400 eighth graders identify strengths and visualize what their futures might look like. One big topic the mentors broach with students is what to consider in selecting which high school might best fit their needs.

    Students visited the zoo in groups scheduled over three days. Dee-1, a math teacher turned inspirational rap artist, mixed humor with wisdom in each of his appearances.

    “Don’t keep hitting snooze on your alarm clock,” he told the teenagers, according to a district news release. “Some people are going to hit snooze until it’s too late.” He implored students to make smart decisions, to choose a career in line with their passion and to live up to their potential. 

    Cleveland was one of six stops on Dee-1’s “Knowledge for College” back-to-school tour during which he performed for more than 5,000 students, according to his website. Born David Augustine, Dee-1 graduated from Louisiana State University and briefly taught middle school before pursuing a career in music and motivational speaking.

    Cleveland’s mentoring program is now in its fifth year. Volunteer mentors meet with small groups of students for two hours each month. With their mentors, students do assessments to determine strengths and interests. They visit a business and a college campus and learn about summer programs, including robotics and the arts.

    Azzam, an eighth-grader at Nathan Hale School, expressed confidence the program will sharpen his ability to make good choices, including which high school to attend. “I’m expecting to get a better education and learn a lot of things I didn’t know before,” he said, according to the website. Mentor Matt Vana, accounts payable manager at Medical Mutual, helps a student narrow his preferences in choosing a CMSD high

    Mentoring helps students “look deeply into themselves,” said Frances Perkins, a science teacher at Nathan Hale. “They know where they’re going when they leave my class. And they do really understand they have to be ‘true to you.’” 

    The program has become something of a rite of passage, said Audrey Davis, True2U program manager. Last year, in some buildings, every eighth-grader exercised the right the district gives students to select which high school they attend.  

    True2U is a partnership among the Cleveland Foundation, Neighborhood Leadership Institute, Greater Cleveland Partnership, Greater Cleveland Faith-Based Initiative and the Cleveland school system.