College Mentors for Kids
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.
When I started school at the University of Indianapolis as a freshman this year, I knew absolutely no one. I was focused on two goals. First, I wanted to begin following my dream of becoming a doctor, and, second, I wanted to better myself within these next four years. Within the first few weeks, I knew what my first wish would take—majoring in Chemistry,Biology, or both, and eventually applying to medical school. The steps required to meeting such a goal are clear and routine; I know the steps to get to med school.
However, my second wish was different. I didn’t know exactly how I’d achieve it. I did know, though, that getting involved should be my first step. My roommate and I had heard about a student organization called College Mentors for Kids, and we figured we’d go to the first meeting and see what it was about.
After hearing the message of College Mentors for Kids, I was hooked because it spoke to my own experience and values. I am a college student passionate about my education. I feel that, especially in the United States, young children are taught that they have to go to school. Instead, children often think that being smart is ‘lame’, that education is a chore and not a privilege. College Mentors For Kids helps to break down this common misconception among children, open the eyes of “little buddies” to the realm of higher education. Education is a powerful tool that can be utilized by anyone willing to pursue it.
College Mentors for Kids is all about changing perceptions of education for at-risk youth, while encouraging them to expand their dreams. The program teaches importance of education, community service, and cultural diversity, encouraging students to work towards personal success while becoming servant leaders in their communities. The concrete, academic growth and the more intangible development, like selflessness and service. are all qualities that will open numerous doors for the children in the future.
These goals are achieved in part by simple role modeling and friendship, as much as through constructive guidance. Mentors model commitment by committing ourselves to our buddies. By spending time with our little buddy each week, we serve as a sense of stability in a child’s life. Through our friendship, the children are given a sense of self-worth. By our own behavior, we teach that being disciplined and respectful are good characteristics to have. The program of College Mentors for Kids takes these at-risk youth and shows them that anyone can be a decent human being and a productive member of society. No matter where they come from, these children learn that they are worth being a part in making a difference in this world; and this all comes back to the idea of education.
Without education, these children would be at higher risk for what we call “products of their home.” These children may become another victim to the endless circle of poverty, abuse, and/or neglect. College Mentors for Kids shows these children that they are worth more than their hardships. In teaching the importance of education, we as mentors are making a difference in the lives of these children. College Mentors for Kids allows youth to achieve their dreams by helping them pursue education beyond high school. That way, they too can contribute to and mold a better society. As Nelson Mandela wisely put it, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and thanks to College Mentors for Kids, I personally have the incredible privilege of being a tiny part in this grand scheme by showing a child this key to her dreams.
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.
Kyndall Norris is currently a freshman at the University of Indianapolis, coming from small-town Coatesville, Indiana. She plans to major in Chemistry and Biology in hopes of attending medical school. At the University of Indianapolis, Kyndall is involved in Chemistry Club, CaLUB, and UIndy’s chapter of College Mentors for Kids.