Mentoring that Matters

Last Updated by Mary Hannah-English on

January is National Mentoring Month. Over the coming weeks, WFYI and the American Graduate Initiative will be sharing stories of mentors and mentees whose lives have been changed by a mentoring relationship, and will be identifying ways you can become a mentor and make a difference in a young person's life.

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Approximately 44% of children in the United States live in low-income families according to a study completed in 2013 by the National Center for Children in Poverty. I strongly believe that every child can be successful despite the challenges faced due to poverty. I also believe that every child deserves a mentor in their life that believes in them. College Mentors for Kids changes the life trajectory for kids in need in communities around the nation through mentoring that matters.

With the mission of connecting college students with the most to give to kids who need it most, College Mentors pairs outstanding college students with children who need an older, positive influence in their lives. For the Purdue University chapter, each college mentor is matched one-on-one with a child from the Lafayette community, where the mentor becomes a role model for the child also known as a little buddy. Through weekly interactions, a strong relationship forms between the mentor and mentee. Visits to the Purdue University campus give the children a real insight that encourages them to see themselves at college. Activities allow our 245 little buddies the opportunity to get an up close view of what higher education entails and the benefits of furthering their education. Each week they participate in an activity centered on higher education and careers, culture and diversity, and community service.  Throughout the year, these mentees will be exposed to new opportunities, inspiring them to create a vision for their future. Aside from the classroom, we strive to improve our little buddies’ self-esteem and behavior, overall aiding their success in the future.

Mentoring works because it is estimated that 90-95% of all human behaviors are learned through modeling (Search Institute). Direct mentoring of at-risk youth breaks down their barriers to success. An analysis of mentoring evaluations conducted by Jekielek, Moore and Hair found that youth in mentoring relationships present better attitudes and behaviors at school and are more likely to attend college than their counterparts. These successes have been found to be especially true for first generation college students. Mentors encourage youth to perform well in school, graduate high school, and pursue some form of post-secondary education. Mentoring is an excellent way to expose children to opportunities, otherwise thought out of reach.

As the president for the Purdue Chapter, I have personally witnessed countless success stories of little buddies in our program. From former little buddies who are now current mentors in our program to first generation college students showing our little buddies that it is possible for them to graduate high school and attend college one day. Our program truly makes a difference each and every day.

One of these stories of success is senior, Hunter Wetzel and his little buddy Jordan.  When Jordan first started our program, he seemed to be one of the troublemakers in the group. Hunter was determined to not get discouraged but rather see the impact that he could make in Jordan’s life. Each week Hunter was there for Jordan, telling him that no matter the circumstance he would not be leaving Jordan’s side.  Hunter proved to Jordan that he was a stable part of his life and was reliable. As the semesters went on, Jordan quickly learned a new level of respect for not only Hunter but also his surrounding peers. Jordan had changed from the person causing the trouble to the one who was willing to hold the door open for others. Hunter’s favorite memory of Jordan is the conversation they had when Jordan said he wanted to attend Purdue just like Hunter. Hunter stated, “When Jordan first joined College Mentors he would have never considered college to be an option.”   Hunter has since moved on to hold leadership roles in our organization; however, the relationship he has with Jordan has remained constant. This relationship will continue as Hunter graduates from college. Hunter will be one of Jordan’s strongest supporters as Jordan continues his education, and hopefully one day Hunter will be in the stands as Jordan graduates high school.

Hunter is only one of many mentors in our program making a difference. College Mentors has shown me the power of relationships and mentoring. While poverty and other socioeconomic factors often provide a barrier for the success of disadvantaged youth in our nation, mentoring works to break down that barrier. Thus, I strongly believe that all children deserve a mentor in their life. Mentoring programs such as College Mentors for Kids are helping children in our nation to believe in brighter futures. Although these kids are labeled as "at risk", all of them are capable of success and just need some support along the way. Building a stronger community through development of the youth is key for future success in our communities and our country.

How do you see mentoring having an impact on youth? Do you have your own mentoring story to share? Tell us about it in the comments below, and on social media using #AmGradIndy.

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M.English-Headshot.jpeg While serving as the president of the Purdue University chapter of College Mentors for Kids, Mary-Hannah English is also serving a term as student representative for the College Mentors Board of Directors. She is a senior studying Biological Engineering and values the power of mentoring, especially in the youth of our communities. Mary-Hannah believes that every child deserves a mentor who believes in him/her.

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