Middle School Heroes

Mentorship Program

Middle School Heroes began as a pilot program in 2018 in partnership with Dunbar Middle School (DMS) and the IRON Lives Program, a non-profit organization which focuses on positive youth development.

The primary goal of the Middle School Heroes program is to invest in our middle school students from a three-legged approach:

  1. Academic Improvement and Tracking

  2. Character and ‘Grit’ Development

  3. Future thinking.

We are passionate about our cause of serving students in the Lynchburg area, our Middle School Heroes program is part of our efforts in helping them create their best future. In Expanding


In 2018 thirteen Near-Peer college students were hired and received ongoing training in cultural competencies, mentoring, implicit bias and working with young people, among other important attributes. These “Heroes” were then embedded within the fabric of Dunbar Middle School among 6-8th grade students with every single English teacher in the school. Heroes worked with larger cohorts of students in the classroom, at lunch and on the basketball court. At the same time, the Middle School Heroes also focused time and energy on 30 individual Tier 2 students, identified by the behavior coach, who required deeper supports.

The faculty of DMS and Beacon of Hope worked with families to develop individual success plans based on a series of questions for each of these students. Plans were bothshort- and long-term, and helped to guide Heroes in their mentoring work.

During the 2019-2020 school year, the Middle School Heroes program was expanded to all three LCS middle schools. Linkhorne, Dunbar, and Sandusky Middle Schools each received 10 Heroes that went through the specified training and mentoring program. Heroes were embedded in classes that were selected by the school principal and behavior coach.

The behavior coach also created a list of Tier 2 students who were in need of additional support and assigned these students to the Heroes based on personal fit and rapport. Since behavior coaches were Heroes’ primary point of contact, each Hero was evaluated by them with a specific rubric. Behavior coaches were also allowed to communicate with Beacon of Hope when an individual Hero was not a good fit for their school. This rarely occurred, but when it did Beacon of Hope stepped in to help address the situation as needed.


Though more rigorous data need to be collected, initial survey data are very promising, with the large majority of teachers who had Heroes commenting on their helpfulness. By far, most participating teachers desire to have Heroes in the future, with many indicating they would love to have even more than what was previously provided. Key data points from 2018-2019 are below, while data from the 2019-2020 school year are limited because the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the school year and many teachers did not respond to our survey. Middle School Heroes was paused during COVID but will return for the 2023-24 school year.

2019 First Semester
% teachers that were satisfied overall with their Hero
% teachers satisfied with their Hero’s assistance in class
% teachers likely to request a Hero for the following school year
2019 Second Semester
% teachers that were satisfied with their Hero
% teachers likely to request a Hero for the following school year
% teachers indicating that their Hero was effective providing academic help
% teachers indicating that their Hero was effective in decreasing problem behaviors