ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Rockford Promise scholarship program is adding a program to help mentor students, and volunteers are needed.

Rockford Promise has been providing full-tuition scholarships to graduates of the Rockford Public School District, but its one-on-one mentorships have now grown into mentoring “circles,” to provide a “safe space” for students to voice their concerns and needs, get advice, or give kids a place to talk and socialize.

Lisa Shimon, a Rockford Promise mentor, says the scholarship program’s growth has necessitated a new approach.

“There have been 150 scholars this year. That’s a lot of kids going to school with this, tuition-free.”

Rachel Johnson, who graduated from Guilford High School, says having some guidance has made a big difference for her.

“It’s definitely helped me a lot,” she said. “My major is political science, which is pretty difficult, so just having just a group of people that I can talk to and for support is really been great.”

Johnson is now a freshman at Northern Illinois University.

The mentoring program meets once a week over Zoom.

Shimon says being a mentor is not a huge time commitment, but there is a need for other volunteers.

“The goal is to get these kids to going to college and coming back to Rockford and being a part of the community and really contributing, back after they get done with school,” Shimon said. “So, this is something that can affect our whole city and really make it a better place to live.”

Rockford Promise provides scholarships to Rockford Public School students for local colleges. One hundred thirty-four scholars have enrolled at Rock Valley since its start. Fifty-five have earned two-year degrees, while seven have earned two-year professional certificates.