Fullerton mentorship program helps students reach their potential

Fullerton School District staff in the Rising Stars program help Richman Elementary students tend to their campus garden.
Fullerton School District staff in the Rising Stars program help Richman Elementary students tend to their campus garden.

As Fullerton School District students navigate their schoolwork, after-school activities and personal well-being, educators are hoping to ease their anxieties and offer encouragement through the Rising Stars mentorship program

For the third school year in a row, this program will provide fifth- to eighth-graders with one-on-one mentorship opportunities alongside field trips and special activities to support their interests and guide young learners along their academic journeys.

After identifying a need for additional supports across their campuses, Superintendent Dr. Robert Pletka and staff hand-picked students they believed would benefit most from the program and structured activities around their needs. 

Since launching the program at Maple, Orangethorpe, Richman, Pacific Drive and Valencia Park elementary schools, district staff and community partners have mentored 105 students and counting.

“Rising Stars helps to give students exposure to new experiences to help broaden their horizons and discover their passions,” said Superintendent Pletka, who is also a Rising Stars mentor. “A student who discovers their passion and is able to gain support to thrive in doing what he or she loves is an important step in future success for themselves, for the community and for all of us.” 

District staff members have teamed up to lead the program across six school sites while local organizations like OC United plan extracurricular activities at four additional campuses.

Fullerton School District student Adan Rivera
Troy High School student Adan Rivera competed with his water polo team in the Southern California Junior Olympics this summer.

To kick off each school year, students meet with their mentors over lunch to discuss what they look forward to as well as any challenges they may face with their classes, hobbies or personal goals. As they move forward, mentors work to help each student reach their full potential by ensuring they attend school, complete their assignments and receive assistance when needed. Rising Stars mentors also plan field trips and provide the students with new experiences to celebrate their achievements and foster their growth.

Troy High School freshman Adan Rivera was among the first group of Richman Elementary students to start the program. Despite facing obstacles when he joined Rising Stars, Adan’s mentors encouraged his academic and personal progress while supporting his interest in playing water polo. After promoting from Nicolas Jr. High, Adan went on to compete in the Southern California Junior Olympics, helping his team medal in the 16 and under boys division.

“They taught me how to be a better person in general,” Adan told district staff in an interview. “I really love how this program has helped me and my peers. I made more friends in the last year because of it.”

After seeing test scores improve by two grade levels for 30 percent of the students, the Rising Stars mentors are working to bring the program to more schools with help from community partners.