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OCSD partnership with SUNY Oswego’s Focus Forward program enhances student confidence and learning

Oswego City School District’s partnership with SUNY Oswego’s Focus Forward, a school-based mentoring program, is working to enrich the lives of students, as it has for the past 11 years.
The program matches middle-school and high-school students with trained and supported undergraduate mentors under the supervision of SUNY Oswego professional staff, who help provide the academic and social support necessary for each student to achieve their full potential.
Previously named “Mentor-Scholar,” Focus Forward works to build students' self-confidence and self-efficacy while giving them the tools they need to be effective learners. The program also provides an opportunity for SUNY Oswego undergraduates to impact their community while gaining valuable professional skills and college credit.
“Focus Forward is one of our most popular offerings,” Oswego Middle School principal Mary Beth Fierro said. “In the past, we’ve had close to 75 mentors and mentees.”
Coordinated by Jennifer Joyce, Focus Forward meets at Oswego Middle School on Mondays and Wednesdays after school, as well as at Oswego High School. Joyce has been involved with the program since March of 2020.

Focus Forward offers mentors new opportunities to work with struggling students and build upon their own individual abilities, whether it is improving listening skills, practicing empathy, becoming more proficient in specific subjects, or eliminating the anxieties that may accompany social interaction.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be academic-based help, it can be social as well. At the high school level, we have students that may just want a little extra social time with friends and people they can trust,” Joyce said.
Recommendations for the program come from administration, guidance counselors, teachers and staff.
After school, OMS and OHS students meet with their mentors for homework assistance, team-building games and positive interactions that promote student success. At the conclusion of the program, students receive certificates to celebrate their involvement and effort.
“Our mentors work to compile SMART goals with their group of students to ensure they have a clear path of how to achieve their goals. We want to try to minimize obstacles in any way that we can,” Joyce said.
Defining SMART goal parameters helps ensure students that their objectives are reasonable and attainable within a certain designated timeframe.
In Joyce’s mind, linking SUNY Oswego students with the Oswego community is one of the most successful aspects of the program.
“To be able to have that bond with students within our schools is great. We love to see our mentors linked in and engaged, especially if they discover that mentoring is something they truly enjoy; that’s really something special.”
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