When Kimberly Roseboro tries to recruit mentors to work at Myers Park High, she knows she's likely to meet with incredulity.
Myers Park is one of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's most prestigious schools, with a well-earned reputation for helping high-fliers excel and get into the best colleges. Why would such a school need help, when so many other high schools face high poverty levels and low academic performance?
Consider Myers Park, which has a poverty level of 33 percent -- on the low side for CMS high schools. But the school has more than 2,700 students, so that represents just over 900 kids. And as Roseboro discovered when she reviewed this year's school report cards, those students aren't faring nearly as well as people might think. The low-income students at Myers Park had a 59 percent pass rate on state exams, well below CMS and state averages for low-income students and far beneath the 95 percent pass rate for Myers Park students who don't qualify for lunch subsidies.
That's been the case at Myers Park for as long as I've covered this beat. Despite a strong overall performance and a thriving International Baccalaureate program, the school's low-income, black and Hispanic students, on average, trail their classmates by large margins.
Roseboro, whose background is in nonprofit groups such as the Boys and Girls Club and YWCA, says she decided to focus her mentoring program on Myers Park precisely because the school doesn't get the government and community support that higher-poverty schools do. She's holding a "lunch and learn" session at the school on Tuesday, Jan. 29, for people willing to commit to spending at least six hours a month providing support and career guidance to students (RSVP by Sunday to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Roseboro gives Principal Tom Spivey credit for not trying to hide his school's weak spots. She talked to him before going public with her plea, she says, and he and his administration thought it was more important to help the students than burnish the image.
It's recruiting season for a number of mentoring groups, so if that time or place doesn't suit you, there's also a Communities in Schools volunteer orientation coming up Feb. 11. CIS places mentors and other volunteers in a long list of CMS schools, from elementary to high school. And the Mayor's Mentoring Alliance serves as a clearinghouse for about 50 groups that provide mentors to students in need.