Sponsor/Mentor FAQ


Sponsors and mentors can find the answers to many frequently asked questions here, but if you have more questions please contact us at 212-986-9575.

How are Student Sponsor Partners’ students selected?

SSP® students are selected according to three criteria of need:

• Financial Need: Students admitted to the SSP program come from financially disadvantaged families; paying tuition is financially impossible without assistance. Among the Class of 2012, 95% of students qualify for the Free Lunch Program.

• Academic Need: SSP aims to serve students that are academically average or below average. SSP student are not likely to test into public magnet schools or to qualify for merit-based scholarships. This year, 98% of Student Sponsor Partners’ new students scored at or below standards on either the reading or math aptitude tests administered in the eighth grade. Given the proper support and motivation, these students have the ability to perform at a higher level.

• Social Need: Every candidate who meets the academic and financial requirements of the program also is assessed in terms of the social risk factors that impact a young person’s ability to succeed. Eighty-one percent of our new students live with a single parent or guardian, and many SSP families struggle with domestic violence, substance abuse, chronic illness, immigration concerns, or other issues.

Is SSP a Catholic organization?

No. Each of our partner schools has a long history of successfully educating vulnerable inner-city youths in a disciplined and nurturing school community. Although most of them are Catholic schools, SSP is not a religious organization, and students are not asked about their religious affiliations. Our partner schools simply provide the best education available to our students at the most affordable cost.

Who is my point of contact at SSP? Who is my point of contact at my student’s school?

• Sponsors and mentors should contact Angel Francis (afrancis@sspnyc.org or 212-986-9575 ext. 116)

There is also an SSP coordinator at each of Student Sponsor Partners’ partner schools. If you are not sure of your student’s SSP coordinator or how to reach him/her, please be in touch with Angel at SSP, and we will put you in touch with the right person.

Remember that you are not a guidance counselor, social worker or tutor to your student, so when you run into issues that are beyond what you are prepared to deal with, you should use these resources that are available to you.

How often do I need to be in contact with my student?

The expectation is that mentors and students see each other 3 to 6 times a year, and speak by phone or email at least once a month. This expectation goes both ways; SSP students are expected to participate in the relationship, and they are informed during the interview process that they can be dismissed from the program if they refuse to take part in the mentoring relationship made available to them.

What if my student does not call me or email me back?

Sponsors and mentors will initiate most of the outreach to their students, at least early on in your relationship. Be persistent with your student, and clear with them about what your expectations are in terms of returning phone calls and emails.

Many students communicate almost exclusively via text, and rarely check their email. Let your student know that texting is fine, but you need to speak by phone and in person from time to time as well.

If your student is totally unresponsive to your outreach, please call SSP. We can get you updated contact information when phone numbers change, or arrange to have your student call you from school. Learning to communicate with an adult is one of the important benefits of having a mentor, so let SSP know if you are having trouble.

How do I build a relationship with my student? What if we don’t have much in common?

Some SSP students have never had a relationship with an adult outside their family or school. They don’t always know what to make of you at first, and shyness can be an obstacle. The best strategy for building a relationship is to be consistent in your message and your availability to your student, and to listen. The key element to a good relationship is to establish trust, and that takes time.

It is also sometimes hard to know what to talk about with your student. Most of the time your interactions will be casual, and you can stick to topics that your student is interested in—talking about things they like is a good way to help them open up. Report card time is a great time to check in on how they are doing in school.

What are some things I can do with my student?

If you are looking for things to do with your student, check out the Sponsor/Mentor Resources page here or go to the Student Sponsor Partners Facebook page for ideas for fun outings with your student.

My student’s parent comes to some of our meetings, but I think my mentee would get more out of the relationship if we met 1:1.

While it is important that your student’s family is comfortable with you and the plans that you make with him/her, it is also important that you and your student have the time and space to get to know each other. When you plan an event it might be a good idea to speak to the parent first on your own to set up an arrangement where you can meet with your student on your own.

My student’s parent won’t allow him/her to attend evening events or be out late on a school night.

It is important to speak with the student’s parent early on to learn the parent’s expectations of the student and their own house rules. With the exception of the ice skating party and the Knicks game, we try to plan the SSP organized events for early enough that getting home late shouldn’t be an issue. We also try to have a few weekend events each year. Remember, you are not obligated to attend SSP events, so work out a time to meet with your student that is acceptable to you, the student, and the student’s parent.

I went to an SSP event and I thought my student would be there but she didn’t show. When I called her about it, she said she didn’t know about it. Don’t you let students know about upcoming events and figure out a way to get them there?

Nearly 1,400 students participate in SSP, and they live and go to school in neighborhoods all over the city. We rely on you, our mentors, to coordinate with your student when you decide to attend one of our events together. When you receive an invitation to an SSP event that you would like to attend, please coordinate with your student to make sure they can come, and then follow up, follow up, follow up! Pick a meeting place, make sure the parent is on board with the outing, figure out how they will get home, etc.

My student asked me for help finding a summer job. What can I do to help?

The best thing you can do is provide some encouraging tips to your student as they try to find a job. Things like: Start looking early, pound the pavement, follow up after you apply, and don’t get discouraged. You can also help them with building a very basic resume. It is difficult for high school students to find summer jobs in the city, but teaching them how to be disciplined in their search can benefit them for a lifetime.

My student is not doing well in school. What should I do?

If your student is not doing well in school, there are a few things you can do:

• Meet with your student. Sometimes simply sitting down with your student and talking about the academic problems they are having can give you a chance to work out a plan with them to improve their grades. Encourage them to get extra help from their teachers and to attend after school tutoring sessions if they are available.

Remember, you do not need to be their tutor and you are not a social worker; if you find you do not know how to handle a situation, please contact SSP.

• Contact the SSP school coordinator. The school coordinators are often guidance counselors in the partner schools, so they can help the student get on track and monitor the student on a daily basis.

• Contact SSP. We can get in touch with the school or the student to figure out a strategy to get the student back on track.

I have more questions about sponsoring/mentoring, my student, my student’s partner school.

If you have more questions please contact SSP here or at (212) 986-9575.