Planning Dreams: Cabrini mentorship program helps students reach goals

Photo by Andrea Poteet

Cabrini High School juniors Trever Chidester and Beca Maynor log onto the Website for the Dream Mentor program. The program helps students prepare for college and beyond.

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – While some students in her grade are struggling to fill out scholarship applications, study for their college placements and line up internships, Beca Maynor can relax.

The 17-year-old junior at Cabrini High School already has achieved her desired ACT score and has been offered a full college scholarship.

“Everyone at school is getting nervous for the ACTs,” she said. “I got the score. It’s a big weight off my shoulders.”

Maynor is part of the Dream Mentor Program, a group of students at the school who meet with adviser Greg Campbell to help plan and achieve strategic goals for getting into specific colleges, securing funding and starting the career of their choice. He designed the program at the suggestion of Cabrini’s pastor, the Rev. Joseph Mallia.

Campbell, who has headed the program since its inception three years ago, says he strives to make the often-daunting college application process easier for students. Those who want to be in the program meet with him as many times as they wish throughout the year. Campbell also has started implementing the program in eighth grade.

He develops a folder for each student with possible careers based on their interests, lists of possible colleges and timelines for registering for standardized tests, finding scholarships, and creating resumes.

“We find out everything they want and we make sure we are developing the best approach we can,” Campbell said.

For Campbell, who also is dean of students at the parish’s middle school, developing that unique approach with each student is a second full-time job. He estimates he spends a minimum of 30 hours a week on the program, and often meets with students and their parents on evenings and weekends. He also coaches the girl’s basketball team.

Employing his motto, “what gets planned and measured gets done,” Campbell helps each student make a “dream map” that lists short and long-term goals. Students answer a set of questions about their skills and interests each year to track how they evolve over time.

Each year, the instructions in their dream roadmap change: In eighth grade students are asked to take positive risks, like trying out for a new athletic team. By 10th and 11th grades they are focusing on more concrete tasks like registering for ACTs.

Another important part of the program is a calendar, on which students list the due dates for their college applications and scholarship essays, as well as extracurricular activities and vacation time, so they can plan their time effectively.

Junior Trever Chidester, 16, said the program has taught him the steps he needs to accomplish his goals and given him the confidence he needs to achieve them.

“What we want, if we plan it out, we can do it,” he said.

Through the program Chidester said he has been given a head start. By following Campbell’s advice and taking the ACTs early, he can retake the test to ensure his highest score. Chidester, who hopes to one day do research at a children’s hospital, also has spent a summer interning with a biochemist at the University of Michigan as a result of the Dream Mentor program.

“I have that experience now,” he said. “I have the knowledge to work in the lab.”

He said he was overwhelmed by the amount of time Campbell put into helping him plan for college. Two weeks after their initial meeting, Campbell had collected information on five colleges with programs that fed graduates into children’s hospitals.

“He’s really out there for us,” Chidester said of Campbell. “We don’t get that a lot — people who want to keep us where we want to be.”

What each students wants at the beginning of the program often changes as they get more facts about the field, Campbell said.

“We can work for two years on trying to be a nurse anesthetist, and they’ll come in and say, ‘I want to an accountant,’” he said. “And we’ll just start all over again. It’s not where we start, it’s where we finish.”

2010 Cabrini graduate Mike Lollo credits Campbell and the program with helping him find the right school for his dual passions. Lollo is attending Siena Heights University on a baseball scholarship and pursuing a degree in sports management.

“He told me I should look at programs before I look at baseball,” Lollo said. “My degree is more important.

Lollo’s mother, Julie, said she is grateful for Campbell’s help in guiding her through her oldest child’s college application process.

“He does a lot of legwork,” she said. “He does all that work for us. I wish every school had this.”

Campbell’s dedication to the program has garnered more than student appreciation. Last year, he won the Michigan School Counselor Association’s Administrator of the Year award after he was nominated by an Allen Park High School student he also had guided. The honor comes despite the fact that Campbell technically is not a counselor.

The student, Richard Szczesny, now attends Michigan State University. He wrote in his nomination letter that Campbell invited him to come to his office for a meeting after his mother e-mailed him to compliment him on the program. His younger brother and sister attended Cabrini and were enrolled in the program.

“He has given me a different perspective, not only about counselors, but also about school life and work as well,” Szczesny wrote. “Going above and beyond, reaching out, taking responsibility, being prepared and following through all come to mind when I think of Mr. Campbell. I figure if I can live by those ideas in life, and in whatever career I choose, I’ll be OK.”

Campbell said he doesn’t do it for the awards. His favorite part of the program is the one-on-one time he spends with each student.

“I love watching a plan come together,” Campbell said. “I can look in their eyes and they say, ‘Really, I can do this.’”