Mike the Motivator – Helping Students in Chester
As part of Mentor Month, we asked Mike Nelson, also known as “Mike the Motivator,” why he thinks mentorship is so important for the Camelot students.
Nelson, 29, has spoken and inspired students at Camelot’s Chester campus on several occasions and said the kids are not only engaged but will often ask questions during his presentations.
“My mission is student success and by that, I’m not just talking about in the classrooms, although of course, that is important. No, it’s about what they do outside of school. I teach soft skills like goal setting, time management, and entrepreneurship. I hosted the Student Success Skills program in December to keep them fired up so when they return after the holiday break, they’re ready to excel,” he said.
Camelot’s Chester Upland Academy partners with the Chester Upland School District to provide academic, therapeutic, and behavioral support services to students who are over-age, under-credited, and/or at-risk of dropping out of school. Chester campus Executive Director, Dan Peticca, said Mike brings a different spin on education and mapping out a future.
“He’s young, educated, and students really relate to him. He’s not much older than some of them,” Peticca said. “Some kids in Chester don’t often think about the future of their education. We try as much as we can to get them into college, but it’s often about keeping up with the Joneses. Most of the families of our students don’t have the financial means for all of that. Also, some of them are parents themselves; so when they finish high school, it’s about getting a job, supporting their families and surviving day-to-day. Mike brings a lot in terms of giving them perspective and motivation. He’s spoken to our students three times this year.”
Peticca said as part of the school’s education enrichment programs, different trade union members and recruiters have visited with students. They discuss the process of gaining membership in the unions.
“Some consider careers in the military but for some others, because they are parents, leaving Chester isn’t an option,” Peticca said. “Mike doesn’t give the same speech as a recruiter. He’s motivating them in their minds. Trade recruiters work differently. Kids get to come in, sit and talk with them. We’ve had Sheet Metal members, the Laborers Union and members of the Plumbers Union. All discuss how they got started.”
Mike’s motivational message resonates with the students and fits in with Camelot’s approach to education. He said he would like to continue working with Camelot.
“I want to do something with my life that will make a change in the community; to be able to connect young people to education and resources to help them develop a future for their lives, and I’m doing that,” he said.
Mike grew up in West Philadelphia and attended the Delaware Valley University, a small Christian college. After that, he went into seminary and became a licensed minister. He now attends the Mt. Calvary Christian Center in West Philadelphia.
“Young people who live in Chester might not see a lot of positive things going on in their communities or in their lives. But if there aren’t nearby community programs for them to get involved in, I tell them that doing something positive can be doing something simple: like volunteering at a homeless shelter, or the local church. It’s the basic message that you reap what you sow.”