Engaging the future as a “front line of defense for kids at risk,” the Raising Academic Performance (RAP) program of Austin County claims many success stories.
RAP now has a 15-year record of helping Austin County’s kids at risk, and currently holds a vision of reaching further in developing young lives through any means possible.
Existing as a mentoring program, RAP’s goal for the current school year is to have 75 students and 75 mentors coming together, but the organization is looking for a few good volunteers, willing to meet with students.
Many students, especially in single parent homes, have a need of extra help and encouragement. RAP provides one person to listen to the student. The desired result is better grades, graduation, help in coping with problems and an increase in self-esteem.
Volunteers meet once per month with students to listen. The only requirement is a desire to help. It changes the life of a student, and the life of the mentor as well.
Julie Browne, executive director of RAP, knows Austin County well, being raised in Sealy from her third grade year in school.
“She is able to connect people, and get them to the right places,” said Bill Moehl, a volunteer with RAP. “A big part of Julie’s job is for liaison between schools and RAP.”
RAP advisory board leader Moehl noted that the program is blessed with support from individuals, businesses and corporations, but has no governmental support. The overhead is low, and the organization is granted a meeting space in a local church.
RAP uses its funding for special needs of students, including purchasing uniforms, driver’s education, medical needs, glasses, and computers. Teachers often want a special project done by computer. RAP helps in this way, and makes it possible.
The organization also has a summer scholarship program, providing fees for church camps, football camp, cheerleading, activities at Stephen F. Austin State Park, and other activities, which help young people.
Moehl and Browne noted that many youth drop out of school, and that Texas figures reveal that 30 percent of those are “at-risk” youth.
Austin County’s statistics see only 4 percent in that category, Moehl and Browne noted.
“In our program, ones who graduate get a $1,000 scholarship, which is renewable,” said Moehl.
Browne, the “public face person” of RAP, has been with the program for one year, and said, “We want to have more public awareness now.”
The RAP program has a need for mentors.
The program matches male mentors with male students, and female mentors with female students. The current need is for both, with the majority need for men.
In that, five are immediately needed in Wallis, eight in Faith Academy, one in Bellville and eightin Sealy.
RAP recognizes the difficulty for some who are willing to help, since mentoring is for daytime hours.
Raising Academic Performance continues to create a new start for many young people who would otherwise be isolated from its rewarding benefits. Young people show their appreciation in their success, the reward for mentors, leaders and supporters of RAP.
In 2010, the goal of RAP is to continue growth by recruiting mentors and increasing the impact they are making on children in Austin County, and moving into the schools in Wallis. RAP can only assist those students who agree to join the program. Once in the program students may qualify to receive a laptop computer and printer, though RAP does not provide internet service. Additionally, RAP provides financial aid for students who continue on to college or technical schools.
Anyone interested in becoming a mentor please call Browne at (979) 885-8480.