At Central Synagogue

Mentors Matter: Helping Underserved High School Seniors with Central Congregants

Posted March 14, 2019

400 high school seniors and only 1 college advisor. That’s what these wonderful, talented students are facing just a couple blocks away from our synagogue, at the High School of Art & Design, an extraordinary, state-of-the-art middle school/high school for kids with artistic talents who major in architecture, painting, drawing, cartooning, film, fashion, graphic design, set design.

Alumni include Art Spiegelman, Calvin Klein, Tony Bennett, and artist Lorna Simpson.

Most of these kids are from immigrant families. Several are DACA Dreamers. Few of their parents have gone to college. Most have few resources and little-to-no parental support or college-literacy when it comes to applications — how to fill them out, apply for financial aid, think about a college essay, meet deadlines, etc.

Central Synagogue is now partnering with HSAD to fill the gap on mentorship for these seniors — committing to helping at least 2-3 classes next year. If you are a Central Synagogue member or on the waitlist, we hope you’ll considering being one of these mentors. Here’s what some of the students had to say:

I cannot thank you enough because without you, I would not have gotten things done. My CUNY application was finished on time because of your assistance, so I am forever in your debt….You didn’t even have to do this for us and you still took time out of your day…

Before you came along, I hadn’t even started the college process and was very overwhelmed, very behind on everything…thank you for everything you’ve done.

Thank you so much. Without your help, I’d be completely lost. You are the most compassionate person I ever met. PS. Thank you for my future!

Rabbi Shai Held writes, “This is a religious imperative — to believe in our ability to act and to impact the world in significant ways, and we are obliged to recognize that the moment and the task before us, no matter how seemingly trivial, matter.”

What these students most desperately need is an encouraging ear, a reliable relationship in which another adult —aside from their parents (who are often busy or absent) and teachers (also busy with hundreds of kids) — can listen, talk about what they might be struggling with, boost their self-esteem and raise their sense of what’s possible. As one HSAD teacher described to us, “You could literally be the difference in their lives.” As the Assistant Principal said, “We need you more than you know. Whatever you can give us will be a gift.”

Click here to learn what’s involved and read our FAQ.

This volunteer opportunity is only open to Central Synagogue members and those on the waitlist. If you have questions, would like to get involved, or know of someone in particular whom you think might be a good fit for this program, please contact us at