Our mission is fulfilled through our innovative mentoring program which pairs first through sixth graders one-on-one with a college student mentor. Kids are brought to Virginia Tech and Radford campuses for structured, educational activities that engage them in three topics: Higher Education & Careers, Culture & Diversity, and Community Service. These 18, two hour activities throughout the schools year make learning fun for kids, in addition to providing them time with a caring mentor, while also providing college students with leadership skills and a connection to the community outside of their campus. In the words of one of our college student volunteers, “College Mentors for Kids is a relationship between a mentor and a little buddy that fosters optimism, respect for others, and a desire to learn!”
Each chapter is a registered student organization and is 100% student led. This provides a dual-impact on kids and college students, who learn about giving to the community and build leadership skills. Through time spent with a mentor and activities, kids are exposed to new experiences, start setting goals for their future, and learn the habits needed to achieve them.
College Mentors for Kids began serving kids in the New River Valley in the spring of 2015. The Virginia Tech chapter serves 144, first through fifth graders from Margaret Beeks, Prices Forks, Kipps, and Eastern Montgomery Elementary Schools with 180 college student volunteers. The Radford University chapter serves 28, first through fifth graders from Belview Elementary School with 40 college student volunteers.
Our program curriculum was designed by our founders and has been refined over the years so that it reflects the best practices of mentoring programs while meeting the unique needs of elementary school kids. The two hours kids spend on campus each week is highly structured, and always includes time for one-on-one interaction for the mentor-child pair, expectation-setting for the afternoon, a literacy component, a hands-on activity, and time to reflect on what was learned. Activities feature different campus facilities as well as faculty, staff, college students, and community leaders as guest speakers. Popular activities range from astronomy to VT Corps of Cadets, and exploring museums on campus.
We utilize a train-the trainer model with staff from our national office, supporting college students in leadership roles on each campus-based chapter. Our staff select and train those in top student leadership roles (chapter president, vice president, activity planner, etc.) who in turn select and support their peers serving as mentors. Every volunteer in the program is interviewed, background checked, and trained prior to serving as a mentor or chapter leader.
College Mentors for Kids is a dual impact program, accruing benefits to college students and the elementary kids. After a year in the mentor program, kids say things like, "I have to pay attention in class, get good grades, graduate, and get my diploma," A follow up study of kids first served by our program found that such intentions were realized: participants had a four-year high school graduation rate of 85%, compared to a 73% national graduation rate for low-income youth (Building a Grad Nation Report, 2015). Research has demonstrated that college students who engage in campus activities are more likely to graduate from college on time and with reduced debt. College students who participate in leadership and mentoring programs show particularly strong positive outcomes, going on to heightened career success and a significantly increased commitment to community service in their adult years.
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