Jakar & David, Marian University buddy pair
Meeting someone new and starting a new relationship can be tough. This can be true even for our kids and college students when they are first paired up. But what better way to create a bond than over a shared, funny experience? That’s what happened to Jakar and David.
Jakar was a little buddy at our Marian University chapter and his mentor was David, a biology major. When talking about their favorite College Mentors for Kids memories Jakar starts, “We made tootsie rolls one time, and it exploded all in my face - from my face all the way down.” David interjects, “This is white powdered sugar. The bag exploded. I’m pretty sure he was wearing a red shirt and then it was completely white.” They are laughing as they tell this story, remembering.
Asked if this is really their favorite activity, Jakar is emphatic, “It is because that day I was having fun. It’s when I was getting to know him.” David shares, “It was our first activity together. I thought it was the funniest thing that ever happened. After the whole tootsie roll thing, [our relationship] just kind of took off from there. That got all of the awkwardness out of the way. It really hasn’t changed a whole lot since then. We just kind of, I don’t want to say we goof around, but we have a lot of fun.” And really, what could be better than that.
Growing Through Mentoring
You’ve probably heard this before: mentoring is a two-way street. But when you talk to kids and college student volunteers in our program, you really see how mentoring impacts them both. Jakar and David of our Marian University chapter are no exception.
Jakar shares, “I’m learning what you can do in college. College Mentors helps me get better at what I’m doing at school.” David echoes this saying, “I’m not helping him nearly as much with his homework anymore. He’s starting to get things on his own. He’s starting to build a lot of self-confidence.”
For his part, David recognizes that he’s also learned from Jakar. “Don’t be afraid to laugh ever because I’m pretty sure anyone could recognize Jakar’s laugh because he’s laughing constantly,” explains David. Because of College Mentors, David’s also become a more outspoken advocate for higher education. “I know not everyone gets to have this experience and that’s kind of sad. When I’m out and about and talking to kids I make sure to put in a plug like, ‘You can’t get by just going to high school anymore. You’ve got to go to college now.’”
Sam & John, University of Kentucky buddy pair
Last year, Sam was a 5th grader at Harrison Elementary in Lexington, Kentucky. John was a junior studying to be a physician’s assistant at the University of Kentucky. Their paths were intertwined when John was paired with Sam as his mentor at the University of Kentucky chapter of College Mentors for Kids.
At first glance, Sam and John seem very different. There’s the obvious differences, like age, but there are deeper ones too. John grew up knowing college was an option for him. He had close family members who went to UK, so from a young age he wanted to be a Wildcat too. John explains that in his family “we never really thought about not going [to college].” For Sam, college is a new concept that he’s just starting to learn about through his time at College Mentors.
But when you keep digging, you realize Sam and John have a lot in common too. Sam shares that they both like sports and video games, and “he’s from the same birthplace as me: Chicago.” For both of them, it’s also their first year participating in College Mentors at UK. When asked what their favorite part is, they have the same answer. They both enjoy hanging out with each other and the other mentors and kids in the program. Sam says, “I think it’s pretty cool. I get to hang out with my mentor and have fun.” John adds, “We’re able to cut loose and have fun and still learn a couple of things.”
Making a Difference
At College Mentors for Kids, we often stress that we are a mentoring program, not a tutoring program. But Sam and John, a buddy pair from the University of Kentucky chapter, demonstrate how we still make a difference for kids educationally.
Sam shared, “[School’s] very hard when I don’t get my work done. I try real hard, but I don’t get my stuff right a lot of times.” However, being in College Mentors has given Sam confidence in his abilities. Sam continues, “At College Mentors…you have a mentor, and you get to talk about what you learn in school. I think I will do well [at school].”
Sam’s mentor, John, helps Sam by being supportive and sharing his own experiences. John says, “I feel like we’ve got a pretty good relationship. He’s able to tell me anything he needs to tell me. I make him a little more mature, one week at a time.” And Sam agrees.
While Sam can’t help John with his course work, he does teach him other things. With a smile John explains, “Every time we dance he’s able to show me up, so I learn from him.”
Celia, former little buddy & current mentor, University of Southern Indiana
A mentoring relationship is a powerful bond that can positively influence the mentor as much as the mentee. Just ask Celia Langford - she's been on both sides.
Celia was involved with College Mentors for Kids at the University of Southern Indiana chapter during the 2002-2003 school year when she was in the third grade. She was only in the program for one year, but she clearly remembers her mentor and the strong relationship they shared.
"What I remember most about my mentor is that she genuinely cared for me and was interested in me. I am the oldest child and I have a younger brother, so she definitely took an older sister role for me. She was someone I looked up to and had fun with."
Twelve years later, Celia is a senior at the University of Southern Indiana studying Social Work. She hopes to work with inner-city youth, either as a youth director at a church or with an organization that has youth development programs. "Whenever I have the opportunity to work with kids I always take it! I choose to get involved with College Mentors because of my love for kids, especially inner city kids," says Celia.
She reflected, "Either career path I go, I have a strong interest in working with inner city, troubled youth. I feel like I have a connection with those kids because I was raised in the inner city and went to school in an inner city school system. Having those experiences has made me realize every child should have the opportunity and assistance present to help them be successful and reach their goals, and I want to advocate for them."
Celia's little buddy, Tayvi, is going to be a third grader this year at Glenwood Leadership Academy, and Celia describes him as "silly" and says that he loves sports, telling jokes, and making people laugh.
"My favorite part about being a mentor is seeing my little buddy's face as soon as he gets off the bus and sees me. I love how excited he is to share what has been going on throughout his week and to tell me stories. I really just love hanging out and having fun with him. We are really compatible and get along well!"
Celia explains, "His dreams right now are to become a professional basketball player, but throughout the semester he has become more interested in college. I feel like the impact I'm making on him is being a positive and supportive person for him, and most importantly, being his friend. I always make sure our time together is all about him and that he has the most fun possible!"
Christian & Jordan, University of Indianapolis buddy pair
"When I come to College Mentors, I love seeing my buddy's face every day and seeing all the fun activities and mostly everything," says Christian, a 4th grader at Paul Miller School #114. Christian participates in College Mentors at the University of Indianapolis chapter with his mentor, Jordan. She is a sophomore biology major with plans to attend medical school.
This is Christian's third year in College Mentors. He loves baseball and his two cats, Colby and Fergie. Seeing Christian and Jordan together, you can tell that he looks up to her and that they have fun together. She asks about his day, and he tells her jokes while they wait in the snack line. It is these small moments that make a lasting impact, just knowing there is someone who cares.
Speaking about her little buddy Christian, Jordan says "He motivates me even when he's not around." Jordan says that Christian has taught her how to push through tough moments. When Jordan wants to give up studying or feels fed up, she remembers that Christian is looking up to her and that she needs to be a role model for him.
When Jordan and Christian met last year, they took to each other right away. Jordan is a mentor at the University of Indianapolis chapter of College Mentors for Kids. She is a biology major who always knew she would go to college. Her little buddy is Christian, a 4th grader at Paul Miller School #114, who loves baseball and his two cats, Colby and Fergie.
Christian has also taught Jordan to "put others first." At the end of last year, Christian won an award and was able to pick out a toy as a reward. He picked out a toy, not for himself, but for his sister. Christian chose to give to others, and this reminds Jordan to do the same, proving that, in mentoring, the impact goes both ways.
Ryland & Ellen, Indiana University buddy pair
No one can tell a story better than a kid. "Ryland will go on and on about some world he's created in his mind," says Ellen, a mentor at the Indiana University chapter of College Mentors for Kids. "He is very creative."
Ryland is a 4th grader at Arlington Heights Elementary School in Bloomington, Indiana. His College Mentors story started in 2nd grade when he was first paired with Ellen. Ryland says, "I was a little unsure at first, but now I like College Mentors." Ellen remembers, "The first year was a little more difficult. Ryland is very energetic and not the best at listening."
But that didn't stop Ellen from creating a friendship with Ryland. Ellen says, "I learned a lot about his personality and how to get through to him. He listens to me. I can tell he has matured. Ryland is better at listening, and he participates more in the activities. I feel that there is more respect between us."
College is filled with transformative experiences. For Ellen, a mentor at the Indiana University chapter, College Mentors for Kids has been one of those experiences.
Ellen mentors Ryland, a 4th grader at Arlington Heights Elementary School, every Thursday. They have been paired together for 3 years. Ellen says Ryland has taught her to be more assertive. "I'm more reserved, so he's helped me to be creative and have fun with him and play along."
Ellen told us College Mentors "has given me a different perspective to see these kids who may not know much about college. It's nice teaching them and showing them what it's like here. It's super humbling. I always assumed I was going to college, and these kids might not feel that way. I look forward every week to the activities and seeing Ryland. It has made my college experience more fun."
Ellen is looking forward to her fourth year with College Mentors, although it will be bittersweet as it will also be her last year with Ryland. However, it is clear that she has had a lasting impact on Ryland just like he has had on her. ____________________________________________________________________________
Elijah & Eva, Indiana University buddy pair
As a supporter of College Mentors for Kids, has anyone ever asked you, ‘What is College Mentors?’ Next time you can share this answer from Elijah, a 4th grader and little buddy at our Indiana University chapter: “It’s where you get to hang out with your friends and learn a lot of cool things that you really didn’t know.”
Elijah is an active kid who loves to be outside playing basketball or skateboarding. This school year, he spent his Thursday afternoons participating in activities on IU’s campus with his College Mentors for Kids mentor, Eva. They have been paired together for two years. Eva felt so strongly about being Elijah’s mentor that she switched around her class schedule so that she would be able to keep mentoring him. When asked what he’s learned from Eva, Elijah just smiles and says, “It’s a long list.”
College Mentors for Kids is proud to work with dedicated college students. Eva, Elijah’s mentor at the Indiana University chapter, got involved after transferring to IU and says, “I’m very passionate about being able to mentor. It’s something I enjoy doing.”
Eva just completed her junior year and is a Psychology and Neuroscience double major who wants to become a child psychiatrist. For her, “[college] was never not an option. Both of my parents have a PhD or Md. I always wanted to pursue secondary education and more of an education after college. I always wanted to challenge myself.”
Eva recognizes that her background is different from that of her little buddy, Elijah, and strives to engage him in the activities so he can learn about the opportunities available to him. “I want to help him grow. He may not come from a similar background as me but that doesn’t mean he can’t purse higher education or something beyond that,” says Eva, “I want him to know that anything is possible as long as he works hard and stays out of trouble and doesn’t let other kids lead him down the wrong path.”
Mentoring can be transformational, but it takes some work to create a true bond that will change the mentor’s and mentee’s lives. Eva and Elijah, a mentor pair from our Indiana University chapter, know this well.
Eva recalls, “In the beginning, it was definitely difficult.We had to find a happy medium where he was respecting me and I was respecting his wishes.” Learning about Elijah’s background, along with training from the College Mentors for Kids’ national office, helped Eva to better understand his actions.
“Elijah has learned to trust me. He knows that I’m here for him. He knows that I care about him,” says Eva, “I come here every week because I enjoy spending time with him. It’s not something to put on my resume. I want to help him grow.”
Elijah has grown. “[I have seen him grow in] his respect towards myself and towards others. He has learned to manage his frustration with an activity or person.” This past year, Elijah was one of the first to be Buddy of the Week!
Cortney, Ava, Cole & Noah, Purdue University chapter family
At College Mentors for Kids, we often talk about impact: the impact of the program on kids, college students and the community. While we measure impact in many ways, one of the best ways to see it is by talking to a parent of our program.
Cortney is a single mother of three children, Ava, Cole and Noah, each of whom attend our mentoring program at the Purdue University chapter in West Lafayette, Indiana. Last year was their first time participating in the program and here’s what Cortney had to say, “We love it. The kids love it. They like being able to go on campus, and [the mentors] do a lot of hands on activities with them.”
So what is the impact Cortney sees in her kids? “I think it gives them a confidence booster,” Cortney explains, “It gives them something to look forward to. It gives them something to work towards. I really think it’s helped them a lot.”
Noah, Ava, and Cole's Story
Kids starting College Mentors for Kids for the first time may not know what to expect. This was the case last school year for Cortney’s kids, Ava, Cole and Noah, who participated in the program at the Purdue University chapter.
Ava, a 3rd grader, said “I felt kind of scared because I’ve hardly been to Purdue. But then, once I got used to it, I liked it more and more. And then, with each activity we did, I liked it more and more and more.” Cole told us he felt “happy and a little bit nervous”, while Noah was excited to meet his new mentor.
Thanks to the Purdue University chapter students, Ava, Noah and Cole each had a great time at College Mentors! Ava talked about how she learned about campus life, like living in dorms and eating on campus. Cortney mentioned that Noah started drawing more and painting after going to College Mentors. Noah even said he would like to be an art teacher at Purdue when he grows up. Cole stated, “I like that you get to do science.” The soda lamp activity was his favorite. Each is looking forward to a new year of College Mentors.
College Mentors for Kids wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of caring, passionate college students. Cortney, whose three kids are in the program at the Purdue University chapter, told us, “I think that the mentors that we’ve had have really shown the kids they really care about them personally. That they would always be there. Ava loves her big buddy.”
When Ava’s mentor, Melony, had to miss the last activity day for the school year, she wrote Ava a note so that they could keep in touch over the summer. “Things like that really mean a lot because even though the program was over for the year that shows that the [college students] still care about the younger kids,” says Cortney.
When asked about Melony, Ava explains, “She was nice. She knew what I was talking about. She understood me.” Being understood is so meaningful, especially for kids. Ava and Melony are paired together again this year, and will have the chance to grow their friendship.
McKenzie & Anna, University of Kentucky buddy pair
Anna and McKenzie's Story
What does it really mean for a child to have a mentor? For McKenzie, it means having someone to trust. She says, “I was a little bit scared [when starting College Mentors], but once I got to know Anna I was just like, ‘okay, she’ll protect me.’”
McKenzie is a fifth grader at Harrison Elementary School in Lexington, Kentucky. She has been in College Mentors for Kids for two years and has always been paired with Anna, a senior at the University of Kentucky. Anna is a psychology major and family science minor. She wants to be a child life specialist after graduation.
Anna remembers, “McKenzie was shy the first day. She was sweet and quiet. Then literally the second day, she was just McKenzie, just chatty and sassy and all over the place. She was a whole different kid.” To see them now, laughing and teasing each other, it’s easy to see that their bond is strong and special. That’s what mentoring is all about.
McKenzie, a fifth grader at our University of Kentucky chapter, may have been nervous when she started College Mentors but now she’s energetic during activities and she’s learning a lot.
“I remember last year we wrote letters to kids with cancer and leukemia and lymphoma. We also made blankets for homeless people,” says McKenzie. “That taught me a lot about not worrying about myself, that there’s other people in the world that don’t have as much as I do.”
Anna, McKenzie’s mentor and a senior at the University of Kentucky, remarks, “I can tell a big difference in her this year. She’s matured in a lot of ways. The way she talks about school is more responsible. She’s gotten more comfortable, I think, being at College Mentors and since this is her second year, she kind of knows the routine and what we’re doing. She’s definitely a leader.”
College Mentors for Kids is pleased to be developing youth, like McKenzie, in a positive way!
Why does a college student, who may be juggling classes, a job, an internship, athletics, and other extracurricular activities, take time out of their week to mentor a child? “I just love kids. To be a child life specialist, it’s really good to do volunteer work and be around children so College Mentors was just kind of perfect,” says Anna, McKenzie’s mentor at the University of Kentucky chapter.
Anna is a senior at UK majoring in psychology with a family science minor. She explains, “I am the first generation to go to college. It wasn’t really a question; it was just the plan, high school to college. My Dad was really thrilled when I came to UK. My parents were always supportive and just let me follow my dream.”
Now Anna is supportive of McKenzie. “McKenzie’s very brave. She’ll say whatever she wants. She’s really smart. She goes after what she wants.” And McKenzie has taught Anna lessons too.
Anna said to McKenzie, “You have taught me to love life and be happy because I know you’ve had your ups and downs and I’ve had my ups and downs. You’re always just smiling, playing and making everybody laugh. So even if I’m in a bad mood or stressed out, whenever I come to College Mentors and hang out with you, I’m like ‘alright, let’s just be happy.’”
College Mentors is bringing kids and college students together for these kinds of life-changing experiences, and we know the future will be better because of them.
Tyla & Emily, Marian University buddy pair
Meet Tyla and Emily
Every kid's experience in College Mentors for Kids is different, but each story starts with a child being paired with a college student mentor. Before starting the program, kids fill out a sheet detailing their interests. Student leaders use this information to pair kids with a college student who will be a good fit. From talking with kids and mentors, we've found that sometimes the matching process can be the scariest part of joining the program. There is always the fear of 'will this new person like me?'
On their first day of College Mentors at the Marian University chapter, Tyla, then a second grader at Holy Angels Elementary, and Emily, then a sophomore, stood nervously with their peers in two lines, facing the other group as mentoring matches were announced. Tyla, now a third grader, recalls, "I was a little bit scared at first because I thought no buddy would accept me." Emily remembers being nervous in the beginning too. But after their names were called out and they were paired together Emily says, "We never had a problem clicking."
As Emily and Tyla sit side-by-side, reminiscing about their favorite activities (the crafty ones) and the things they've learned from each other, it's easy to see they have a natural friendship. They both have warm and friendly demeanors, and they smile a lot when they're together. Tyla now says, "I feel excited [about College Mentors]. I like the fun that I have."
Tyla is now a third grader at Holy Angels Elementary and in her second year at Marian University's chapter of College Mentors for Kids. Two years of being paired with her mentor, Emily, and participating in activities on campus has made a difference for Tyla that hasn't gone unnoticed. Emily says, "I've noticed that when she was younger, she was quiet. As she becomes older, I can see her leadership roles emerging. I've seen improvements in her interest in college and higher education and giving back to others."
More importantly, Tyla feels College Mentors for Kids has helped expand her world. She explains, "I thought college was just about having fun and learning. I learned that it's not all about having fun. It's about learning and listening." Then she says something very profound for an 8 year old, "When you close your eyes, you miss out on things in life." She continues, "I want to be a doctor. I need to go to college and work hard to make my dream come true."
That's the impact College Mentors for Kids makes, helping kids open their eyes to their potential so they don't miss out on anything life has to offer.
As one of five siblings, Emily, a mentor at the Marian University chapter of College Mentors for Kids, has always loved being around and working with kids. Being part of a big family also provided some built in role models for Emily.
Emily says, “I always knew that college was an option. I had other siblings that went to college.” Now Emily is a soon-to-be senior and a business marketing major, and she’s helping her little buddy, Tyla, see that college is an option for her! Emily shares, “I’ve seen improvements in Tyla’s interest in college and higher education and giving back to others.”
Emily has also changed through the program. “I decided to join [College Mentors] because it was an opportunity to invest myself in the outside community around Marian. Joining has helped me grow in patience and listening. Being able to come here and spend time with Tyla slows life down and reminds me of the importance of taking time for yourself and having fun.”
As Emily enters her senior year and the working world soon thereafter, those will be significant lessons to remember. If you’re a College Mentors alumni who wants to keep giving back, check out our young professionals group, College Mentors EtC!