Kids Hope USA
Building Student Success, One Relationship at a Time
When mentor Lise Cook met her 2nd grade student Johnathon for the first time, she was greeted by a spate of warnings from his teacher, along with sincere appreciation: “I am so grateful that you are here.”
A self-professed class clown, Johnathon had trouble concentrating in class, and was a constant disruption to the other students. His teacher advised Lise to try not to say “no” to him, as that was a refrain she delivered constantly throughout the day. Before releasing him for his hour-long mentoring session, Johnathon’s teacher admitted to Lise, “He probably needs more of a break from me than I do from him.”
Lise took Johnathon to the school library to connect with him outside of a classroom setting. She quickly realized that Johnathon was a gifted reader – he just had not displayed an interest in the “required reading” books that were mandated for his class.
As Lise began building a relationship with Johnathon, she encouraged him to continue reading what he liked – and to test for the Gifted and Talented (GT) class. Johnathon was accepted into GT that year. Ten years later, Lise still has a close relationship with Johnathon, who is now fielding college scholarship inquiries based on his exceptional PSAT scores. Johnathon and his mother have invited Lise to accompany them on several college visits this fall, which Lise plans to do (in addition to helping Johnathon with his college application paperwork).
A 14-year volunteer for the Kids Hope program, Lise Cook is now a full-time employee of the nonprofit organization, serving as a regional Executive Director. Her belief in the efficacy of the Kids Hope approach is echoed by the 85% of volunteer mentors who stay with the program year after year. Of the 15% that leave, the top reason for discontinuing as a mentor is because their child relocated.
The Kids Hope model, “One Child, One Hour, One Church, One School,” focuses on establishing deep, one-to-one mentoring relationships with at-risk youth. The program aligns a church with a local school, and engages volunteers from the church to mentor students one hour per week throughout the school year. The purpose of the mentorship is to establish a trusting, safe adult connection and support the student’s growth. Volunteers participate in an in-depth training from Kids Hope that emphasizes the importance of forming long-term relationships with their mentee students.
While Kids Hope has numerous success stories that attest to the program’s impact, several key statistics highlight the value of the organization’s relationship-centric approach:
- 96% of Kids Hope students promote to their next school grade.
- 91% of relationships continue from one year to the next (excludes graduations).
- 100% of principals would want to replicate the Kids Hope program if they moved to a different school.
- 5 years is the average length of the Kids Hope mentor/mentee relationship.
Kids Hope USA operates in over 1,200 elementary and middle school-church partnerships in 33 states. Kids Hope has been rapidly expanding over the past few years in North Texas, with 80 church/school partnerships established to date. Amidst this significant growth, Kids Hope continues to hone its volunteer training and mentor support systems to address the needs of its volunteer base and the children it serves.
Just this year, Kids Hope began to incorporate trauma-informed approaches in its trainings with guidance from Turnaround for Children. These research-based strategies help to address the significant social and emotional struggles that many Kids Hope children bring to school from their adverse home environments.
The Miles Foundation was pleased to introduce Turnaround for Children to Kids Hope earlier this year, as the Foundation seeks to connect complementary resources and like-minded partners who can benefit from each other’s work.
We look forward to continuing to support Kids Hope’s growth and impact on our community, one student relationship at a time.
 Of the Kids Hope programs that have been in existence five years or more.