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Mentors guide Riverview Gardens students towards graduation

Some 250 volunteers are immersed in 42 schools to provide essential needs to children such as clothing, hygiene products and health care.

ST. LOUIS — For 18 years, The Little Bit Foundation has made a huge impact in St. Louis’ elementary and middle schools.

Some 250 volunteers are immersed in 42 schools to provide essential needs to children such as clothing, hygiene products and health care.

For the first time ever, Little Bit is expanding its reach to high school students. The program is called SOAR and it launches September 3 at Riverview Gardens.

Picture yourself back in high school for a second. Do you remember how hard it was to focus on what was happening right in front you? Thinking years ahead into your future wasn’t always top of mind.

Those thoughts and talks about futures don’t always happen for the students in the Riverview Gardens School District.

According to the Census Reporter, 25 percent of the people living in the district are below poverty level and only 13 percent of people have a bachelor’s degree. It is for these staggering statistics that are stacked against these students, that the Little Bit Foundation chose Riverview Gardens High School as the launching pad for their new program.

Rose Hanley is CEO of the Little Bit Foundation.

"That's what we're all about. What’s next for them? What happens after high school? To see a bright future for our students is everything," she explained.

Hanley is passionate about helping kids who are underprivileged. She and her large entourage of dedicated staff and volunteers have been making a positive impact in dozens of schools for nearly decades.

They’re inside the schools of some of St. Louis’ most impoverished neighborhoods making sure students have the essential needs to learn and grow.

"Once you know that there may be students or children struggling living in poverty in your city It’s really hard to walk away from it," she said.

Now Hanley has expanded the reach of their program to high school students. They’re starting at Riverview Gardens by bringing in mentors who will become role models for students.

"It's a mentor that helps a child be successful in their educational career,” Hanley explained.

Every other Tuesday a group of about 25 volunteers who are the mentors will come to Riverview Gardens for an hour and sit down with a group of high school students. The idea is to be a listening ear and help push these students towards their goals.

Senior Jayden Keys is elated that his peers will have the guidance of a mentor.

"It’s someone that you can rely on and you know this person is there for you right at the start is probably the best thing for some kids who might not have had that," said Keys.

Senior class president Kennedi Rutledge is class president.

"I just want to see the excitement for being successful," said Rutledge.

The program is brand new, but the expectations are high.

"We can only go up. I’m looking for a 90 percent graduation rate,” principal Traci Nave said.

Aside from the mentors, Little Bit will also provide essential items to students such as clothing and school supplies.

They’ll also be holding career fairs. The next will be September 26 at the high school with 50 vendors.

"This will be a success here and we will continue to tweak and improve until we reach our goals, so we don't give up,” Hanley said.

The Little Bit Foundation is a non-profit organization run solely on donations.