The board of education recently endorsed Next Generation Mentoring, an eight-week pilot program that will match ninth grade students one-to-one with an adult member of the community who shares a common interest or hobby.

School of the Osage is embarking on a community mentorship program that will focus on the district's mission to prepare all students for the future.

The board of education recently endorsed Next Generation Mentoring, an eight-week pilot program that will match ninth grade students one-to-one with an adult member of the community who shares a common interest or hobby.

The intent, school officials say, is to better prepare students for meeting their maximum potential for a lifetime of success, and to make learning personal.

Dr. Lori Sallee, director of student services at SOTO, told the board there is a need for coaching and mentoring at the secondary level for all students whether they are college bound or those who might need more adult interaction in their lives.

Students would be matched with a mentor who helps guide them primarily via online activities and email communication through career and hobby activities.

Dr. Laura Nelson, deputy superintendent of academic services, noted that research has shown that successful students benefit from three unrelated adult relationships, and the mentoring program would help fill that need.

There are community partnerships that the school district has, Dr. Nelson noted, that have been most vocal about the concept of mentoring. They recognize the long-term benefits of establishing relationships with high school students, including better preparation for the workforce, retaining young adults to live and work in the lake area and providing students with a well-rounded, practical education.

The noted the Daybreak and Noon Rotary Clubs, the Osage High School Interact Club, the Lake of the Ozarks Regional Economic Development corporation and the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce as groups that have expressed interest in the career mentorship program.

"I'd like to recognize that those are groups that specifically know that we need this in the region and would like to help," Nelson said, "and thus far all parties involved have had the problem of not having a bridge between the interests out there to help and our vision and planning. I really see this pilot as a potential bridge that these organizations and others can cross to partner with us in our mission."

The startup would include mentor orientation and training followed by a face-to-face with students. There would be blended mentoring that relies heavily on established electronic procedures through email and other online services.

Outcomes for the student would include a stronger career focus with increased awareness of available career paths, increased internship opportunities, increased interested in two-year/technical college opportunities, and a personal plan of study and resume development.

Daybreak Rotary Club members Dr. Ron Masse, local dentist, and Tony Reahr, local financial advisor, spoke highly of the pilot program and felt there would be no problem finding 150 qualified mentors to match up with students.