Signature Project: Mentor Meals

A great report on our signature project from the Orange County Register, June 1, 2016


Dinner and conversation is a winning combination for a select group of 30 juniors at El Modena High School.

During the school year, members of the Orange Plaza Rotary Club and Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Elmo alumni sit down with ElMo students as Meal Mentors. The adults bring their professional experience – as a printer, an attorney, an insurance broker, an environmentalist, a special education teacher – plus their business acumen, enthusiasm and dinner. They forge a relationship with the students, as two mentors dine with the same small group of students during every dinner.

The diners meet once each quarter, and begin with an ice breaker activity before segueing to a speaker and a business-related topic, such as long and short-term goal setting, identifying skills, the good/bad/ugly of social media. The audience was intrigued when guest speaker Dustin Saxton shared his varied career path to becoming ElMo principal and earning his doctorate. He worked at a grocery and several fast food places, and even drove a beer truck before teaching math.

To augment their experience, the students are required to complete 10 hours of community service during their junior year. This year, they cleaned and repaired 1,600 books for the ThinkTogether program.

The mentors meet for one last dinner with the students during the students’ senior year, offering networking assistance and advice, as well as awarding a scholarship. The successful program is coordinated by Alexis Greenlee, an English instructor and 2015-16 Teacher of the Year, with collaboration by the Rotarians, alumni and Hispanic Chamber.