Since 1995, College Mentors for Kids at the University of Maryland has been connecting college students with at-risk kids from local schools.
The college mentors are paired with a “little buddy” and the two spend more than 40 hours together per year. The goal is for college students to connect with their communities and motivate little buddies to pursue higher education, according to their website.
“I really enjoy working with younger kids but, on top of that, I enjoy giving back to the community around our university,” chapter president Zachary Ginsberg said. “A majority of the kids at the school we work with live at or below the poverty line and don’t even know that the university is right in their backyard.”
Originally founded by two Indiana University students, the program has spread to Arizona, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Maryland, Missouri, and Virginia. The organization maintains 2,700 college student volunteers and mentors over 2,500 kids.
Senior art history and communication major Samantha Stull worked as a college mentor when she was a sophomore. Stull says she felt as much of an impact from her little buddy as she had hoped.
“Each Tuesday I would get to work with my little buddy, the same person every week, and we would do things like crafts, play games, write cards to sick children in the hospital,” Stull said. “My little buddy actually started crying and she talked to me about how her grandma was really sick.”
Every year College Mentors surveys and record the results of improvement from little buddies.
After joining the program, children “exhibit better school attendance and improved behavior,” according to their website.
For Stull, the experience motivated her to keep giving back to her community. This June, she is going to the Philippines to serve in the Peace Corps, she said.
“I would say that College Mentors for Kids did have an impact on me,” Stull said. “In the Peace Corps, I will be working with disadvantaged children, teaching them basic life skills and personal development, which is exactly what College Mentors for Kids strives to do for young children in America.”
In their first year, 85 percent of students had a close relationship with their mentor. For 77 percent of students, they think more about their futures and what they want to do, and 79 percent want to go to college.
“I think if they can come here and see that college is fun and interesting, it will drive them to try harder in secondary school so that they may attend a school like this later in life,” Ginsberg said.“I want to show them that it is worth pursuing some form of higher education.”