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We want YOU! and your most innovative ideas and actions that inspire and instill hope, helping students see a positive future.

In 2014, the governor and Ohio legislature designed the Community Connectors program to bring together students, their parents, schools, communities, faith or values based organizations and businesses in mentoring programs. The Community Connectors program seeks to strengthen communities, encourage mentoring opportunities and create new pathways for civic engagement that will result in higher educational achievement, higher levels of well-being and health, and workforce readiness for our state. 

The goal is to help students get excited about their future – to be encouraged to dream big – and learn what it takes to put their dreams and goals into action.

The grant targets students (grades 5-12) in low-performing/high-poverty schools. You will need to provide the concept of your unique mentoring initiative and will be measured on how successfully it encourages goal-setting, promotes character building and instills a sense of hope for the future. 

Community Connectors seeks to make a long-term impact on Ohio communities; programs must be sustainable after award completion. Grant recipients will be those organizations that create sustainable, replicable and innovative programs that prove to impact the lives of Ohio’s children.

All grantees initiatives should focus on these 5 principles:

Goal setting is commonly regarded as an important success strategy that affects performance and enhances achievement. Specifically, the ability to appropriately set goals can lead to higher achievement, better performance, higher levels of self-efficacy, and stronger ability to self-regulate (Moeller, Theiler & Wu, 2012). Research supporting the importance of goal setting skills is strong; however, research also shows that few adults report learning to set goals during their school years, and many teachers overestimate their students’ ability to set goals (Moeller et al., 2012).

There are two important components for goal setting to be effective. First, the goals must come from a thorough and high-quality process. For example, stronger outcomes are found when students go through a process to create S.M.A.R.T. goals; goals that are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely (O’Neil, 2004).  Doran first wrote about S.M.A.R.T. goals in 1981 (as cited by Moeller, et al., 2012). This framework has stood the test of time and can be found in current publications for a variety of domains including teacher training, student success, medical training, business management, and leadership. Second, students need to participate in creating their own appropriate goals. Students who set their own goals and evaluate their own progress perform at higher levels than students who are not actively engaged in the process (Moeller et al., 2012).  A strong mentoring program will be one in which the mentor teaches the student a goal setting technique such as the SMART goal process, helps them to create their own goals, and supports them as they work towards those goals (Rhodes, Spencer, Keller, Liang & Nolan, 2006).

There are two types of goals that are commonly used. The first is the performance goal that has an extrinsic focus on external rewards such as getting a good grade on an assignment. This type of goal leads to a pattern of motivation that is associated with failure avoidance,  a fear of judgment and students making an internal link between a negative result and their lack of ability (Dweck and Leggett, 1988). The second type of goal is the mastery goal which has in internal focus on learning, self-improvement and effort and “fosters a motivational pattern associated with a deeper level of engagement that secures and maintains achievement behavior” (Moeller et al., 2012, p.154). Using mastery goals has been associated with higher preference for challenging work (Dweck and Leggett, 1988), increased desire to gain new skills, and a positive attitude toward learning (Ames and Archer, 1988).

Character is a set of abilities, skills or strengths that can be taught, practiced and learned (Tough, 2012). Once learned and ingrained, they become traits, or behaviors that a person engages in automatically.  Some examples of these character traits are self-control, willpower, motivation, conscientiousness, self-discipline, grit, perseverance, determination, and optimism (Duckworth, Peterson, Mathews & Kelly, 2007; Ivcevic & Braccett, 2014; Tough, 2012).

Strong mentoring programs work with students to identify positive character traits that are needed for success and then help students work toward developing those traits (Goldner & Mayseless, 2008). Mentors can impact students’ lives by simply showing them that someone believes in them and believes that they are capable of more, of having strong character and of being successful (Goldner & Mayseless, 2008; Rhodes et al., 2006).

Adolescents are faced with making many important life decisions on a daily basis. The choices they make about school, career plans, drug use, peer pressure, truancy, sexuality, pregnancy and other risky behaviors can strongly affect their ability to have a successful future (Nota & Soresi, 2004; Tough, 2012). These choices can be confounded by typical life issues that take place in adolescence such as common conflicts with family, emotional and hormonal fluctuations, and a lack of problem-solving and decision making skills.  Being able to think critically, solve problems, and make good decisions are essential skills for success throughout the life span. Research has shown that these skills lead to higher quality decisions, greater innovation, goal achievement, opportunity recognition, mistake avoidance, and higher productivity (Tough, 2012).

Students need someone to help them develop their critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills. Strong mentoring programs include this component. The mentor teaches students different models or processes for problem solving and decision making, helps them identify a model they like, and serves as a guide as the student applies that model to different areas of their life (Marin & Halpern, 2011)


Resiliency refers to the ability to bounce back and to not be defined by negative circumstances. Resiliency helps individuals cope with the highs and lows of life and respond to stress in a healthy manner. It is achieved through gradually developing social, emotional, cognitive, and other competencies and is important in the early development of key behavioral health processes such as self-regulation and self-efficacy. These processes greatly influence youth learning and achievement in life (Schunk & Zimmerman, 2007).  Increased youth resiliency is directly correlated to an increased sense of self-mastery, self-esteem, and a sense of belonging as well as the capacity to cope with adversity (Institute of Medicine, 2009).

Resiliency develops over time and is impacted by the interaction of risk and protective factors, other contextual conditions and an individual’s traits and abilities (Hawkins, Catalano, & Arthur, 2002). The Search Institute’s Framework of Developmental Assets identifies factors that communities and schools can influence that contribute to healthy development, such as: support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, constructive use of time, commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, and positive identity (Search Institute, 2013).

While many children and adults living in poverty exhibit remarkable resiliency (Seccombe, 2002), nurturing resiliency is especially important among our most vulnerable populations. The social and emotional stressors of poverty not only increase the risk for substance abuse in our young people, but also affect behavioral health outcomes (Institute of Medicine, 2009). In addition, poverty has been correlated with several other negative effects including increased risks for mental health issues, violent behaviors, crime, and suicide (Evans & Adams, 2009)

Students need support in developing the social, emotional and cognitive skills that lead to having a strong belief in self, the ability to bounce back and not being defined by negative circumstances. Strong mentoring programs include these important components that result in increased levels of resilience for students.    



Students need to believe that there is a positive future awaiting them. Students need to feel valued and that they have something of importance to offer. For a student to believe in a positive future they need knowledge about opportunities and belief in themselves.  If students do not have these important pieces of the puzzle, it is very difficult for them move forward to a successful future (Tough, 2012).

Goldner & Mayseless, (2008) reported the significance that one person can have in changing a child’s path and putting them on the road to success simply by making that child feel valued. A mentor can be that person that listens, shares personal experiences, and gives positive reinforcement for small things (Schwartz, Lowe & Rhodes, 2012). Strong mentoring programs include time for the mentor to get to know the student and methods for the mentor to open the students’ world to opportunities that can lead to a positive future (Rhodes et al., 2006; Schwartz et al., 2012)

We encourage your most innovative ideas. Successful programs will demonstrate measurable outcomes that reflect each of the five Community Connectors core principles.

You can be the One that makes a difference in the life of a young person. APPLY HERE.