Toyota Student Mentoring Program Engages, Empowers and Elevates West Dallas Youth

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No one becomes a success all on their own, and that holds double for students completing their education in the face of multiple obstacles. But for students at the West Dallas STEM School and nearby Pinkston High School, help is assured thanks to the E3 Mentoring Program and a group of passionate mentors from the Plano chapter of TODOS, Toyota's Hispanic-affinity business partnering group..  

Since 2018, E3 has partnered with TODOS, which stands for Toyota Organization for the Development of Latinos, and Dallas-based Foundation for CHOICE (Consider How One Individual Changes Everything), to engage, empower and elevate students to develop skills necessary to thrive. A few of the program’s goals are to teach problem-solving and foster leadership skills, as well as prepare students for college and academic success. 

To do this, topics for the mentors include goal setting, critical thinking and collaboration—the very skills that will companion students throughout their education and future professional lives.  

For members of TODOS, the experience of mentoring students from West Dallas STEM School and Pinkston High School is a “win-win proposition,” says Luis  Pratts, Senior Manager, Transformation Management Office, Supply Chain Transformation, at Toyota Motor North America, and a TODOS leader. “Helping a community and individuals, that is always a positive experience. But what we have found is that it also has helped our team members grow as individuals too, either through learning how to work with the students, or simply learning to listen and be patient.” The program, says Pratts, is reflective of values of the Toyota Way, especially acting for others and creating room to grow, which point to Toyota’s North Star, respect for people. 

Indeed, many members of TODOS share similar backgrounds with the students they mentor, and serve as role models, showing the way to what’s possible. Explains Pratts, “Most of our TODOS mentors were the first generation of college graduates in their families, or in some cases the first high school graduates. For most of our students, this is their main goal, so it is a natural fit to support an outcome these students and their mentors are deeply passionate about.” 

The gaps filled by the mentors address significant needs for students in the community. Comparing West Dallas Students to those in the City of Dallas as a whole, 67.1% of students in the program schools never complete high school, versus 30.6%. And the college graduation rate is equally stark, with 2.2% of West Dallas students completing college, compared to 27% of City of Dallas students.  

According to Jessica Bartnick, co-founder and CEO of Foundation For CHOICE, mentors offer the student a caring, adult professional to provide encouragement and hope. Says Bartnick, “Sometimes all a child from an underserved background needs to be told is they can accomplish anything they want, and that the sky's the limit. That’s what the mentor provides their mentee.”    

The results are clear that mentoring outcomes improve dramatically for the mentees. Ninety-five percent of students participating in the E3 mentoring program, also known as the Toyota Youth Mentor Program, enroll in college; the other 5% enlist in the military. Twenty-six percent graduate from high school college-ready, according to standards set by the Texas Education Authority, and 70% stay in college once enrolled. These numbers are 2-3 times the averages for City of Dallas students. 

Support continues for E3 students once in college. Fifty-six percent of E3-mentored students receive 100% tuition coverage, for an average amount of $35,000 per student.  

Perhaps more important are the changes to the students’ outlook, which can carry over to their lives outside of the classroom. “We have seen students come out of their shells. Students have specifically stated that they feel more confident,” says Bartnick.  

It’s this opportunity that is the true strength of the program, according to Pratts.I always say, if you can change at least one life for the better why wouldn’t you do it?  We have been able to inspire these kids to do something is both tangible and possible.” And that provides a boost one can’t put a price on—hope for the future.