Over 20 years ago, two college student friends at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana created a dream and imagined a community in which young, underserved children would be given the same educational opportunities and experiences as their peers. Believing college students to be a valuable yet untapped resource for children, the friends set out to design a program that would harness the energy, idealism, and resources that college students and a university campus could offer children. The mission centered on opening windows of opportunity. The idea was simple: by exposing impressionable children to positive opportunities they might make healthier life choices and achieve: 1) enhanced understanding of new opportunities they would not have otherwise had; 2) a future in which they are financially independent; and 3) a passion for giving back to their communities that lasts into adulthood.
With their dreams of inspiring and building brighter futures for children and a year of planning, College Mentors applied for non-profit status in 1996 and opened its doors as an official 501(c)3 in 1997. Pilot programs at Indiana University and Butler University paired mentors with 33 local children in the fall and spring of 1996. The following summer, College Mentors opened state-wide headquarters in Indiana. In the next few years, the friends, along with other state staff, established four additional chapters, and helped lay the groundwork for two other chapters before their departure in 2000. Today, College Mentors for Kids serves 34 chapters with over 2,500 children across the United States through the volunteer efforts of over 2,800 college students with a national office in Indianapolis, Indiana.