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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Innovia Foundation gets $850,000 from state to start high school mentorship program

University students cheer on the Titans against Central Valley during the Stinky Sneaker high school girls basketball game at Spokane Arena in 2019.  (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)

A state agency is giving the Innovia Foundation $850,000 to create a mentorship program aimed at increasing the number of Inland Northwest high schoolers who go to college or trade schools.

Innovia, through its LaunchNW initiative, will start the Coordinated Community Mentorship Program this fall with the funds from the Washington Student Achievement Council.

The program will pair 10th- and 11th-graders – and their families – with mentors. The type of mentor will vary. It could be a fellow high schooler, a college student or an adult.

Ben Small, LaunchNW’s executive director and a former superintendent of the Central Valley School District, said mentors will help students and families complete financial aid forms and college applications. They’ll also check in with students after they’ve enrolled in college or a trade school to make sure they attend.

“It is to provide that support system where maybe those support systems for post-high school pursuits didn’t or don’t exist for our students,” Small said.

The mentorship program will focus on helping students of color, low-income students and students who speak English as a second language.

Small said the $850,000 grant will pay for mentor coordinators in six Spokane County high schools: North Central, Shadle Park, University, Medical Lake, Riverside and East Valley. The funds will also allow LaunchNW to offer stipends to mentors, who could spend about four hours a month with their mentees.

Improving matriculation rates won’t be the lone goal of the mentorship program. For instance, Small said the effort will also work to ensure kids are in good mental and physical health and aren’t going hungry.

For more information on the grant, go to