College Mentors for Kids looks to inspire local children

Alana Farkas, Reporter

In the next few weeks, a group of 40 elementary school students from Park View Elementary School will enter Norris University Center for their first mentoring session with Northwestern students.

Organized by College Mentors for Kids, a national organization that connects college students with elementary school students in a one-on-one mentoring program, the sessions will aim to provide role models for underprivileged children and show them the benefits of working hard in school.

Curtis Ward, director of expansion for College Mentors for Kids, brought the organization to NU. The University is the 32nd institution to participate in the mentoring program.

As part of the organization, groups of children come to college campuses to participate in two-hour weekly activities, Ward said. Each elementary school “buddy” is paired with a college mentor.

The mentoring activities focus on three main concepts: higher education and career, culture and diversity and community service, Ward said.

Mentors will lead by example, teaching their buddies about their major and what it is like to be in college, said Medill sophomore Isabel Schwartz, the NU chapter’s recruitment chair.

Ward said the program makes a difference. Eighty percent of the children from the initial pilot years graduated high school, and 75 percent went on to some form of post-secondary education, he said.

Weinberg junior Mary Lewis, president of the NU chapter, said the project will go beyond simply helping kids with their schoolwork.

“It’s not a tutoring program where they come and bring their homework,” Lewis said. “It’s more of a mentoring program where we provide role models for them and show them what working hard in school could mean.”

College Mentors for Kids, founded in 1995 by two Indiana University students, has since expanded to eight other states, including Illinois. According to the group’s website, 81 percent of children in the program come from low-income homes and 83 percent are potential first-generation college students.

Schwartz said College Mentors for Kids might become extremely rewarding for NU students.

“It’ll be very great for the mentors to put it in perspective how lucky we are,” Schwartz said. “This can make us appreciate the advantages we have here.”

Recruitment at NU will begin soon, Schwartz said. The group is looking for both mentors and students to help fundraise, she said.

Lewis said she recognizes the importance of College Mentors for Kids. The program’s long-term goals include encouraging students to continue their education beyond high school, she added.

“I know as a kid I always looked up to people who were older than me,” Lewis said. “That could be so important in a kid’s life.”

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