Non-profit College Mentors for Kids motivates low-income students to further their educations

IMG_5611.JPGBy Maris Medina

College Mentors for Kids at the University of Maryland is a chapter of the non-profit organization that matches students from a local Prince George’s County school with an individual mentor.

The activities, which are centered around higher education, community service, and culture and diversity, are meant to get low-income students excited about college. And according to the club’s president, junior operations management and business analytics major Emily Blanchard, these are kids who normally wouldn’t be encouraged.

Jonathan Hyon, a junior public health science major and the club’s vice president of fundraising, said the variety of hands-on, college-centered activities differentiates the club from other campus organizations, in that it “opens up the choice” for students.

“A lot of organizations just sort of inspire kids, and they say reach for higher education, but it kind of stops there,” Hyon said. “College Mentors takes it a step further.”

However, Hyon added that mentors should remember not to overstep their roles, and that coming in with a “savior” mentality can create a vicious cycle in which mentees become too dependent on the college students they’re grouped with..

“I think one thing that we always look at is not like looking at these kids like they need a savior, or they ‘need’ someone to help,” Hyon said. “But it’s like, why not lend a healing hand if they want it? They can probably do fine without us, it’s just getting that extra help and creating more opportunities for them.”

Hyon said that these opportunities, however, are free for mentees, but can be costly for mentors and club leaders as a result. The biggest cost is transportation for the kids, which adds about $400 every week. For this reason, according to Hyon, the club’s fundraising is especially critical.

The Fall Cookout, held primarily as a bonding opportunity for mentors and friends, was held in partnership with the Hillel Nov. 8. The club charged $5 for tickets, and proceeds go back to the organization.

Hyon, who heads the fundraising efforts, said that making the club free for students is the most important thing.

“If we have these kids pay for this program, it’s like, what’s the point?” he said. “Of course they’re still going to be inspired, and it’s still going to be a great program for them, but why would we want to put more stress and more hindrance for them to come to this program when they have other things they need to focus on?”

The organization also pushes kids to get excited about opportunities beyond just higher education. Despite these kids being told to pursue careers that have monetary promise, the club’s recruitment director, Denna Shariq, said passion is the most important driving force.

“[I tell the kids that] if you have any interests at all…no matter how small or dumb, just pursue it,” said Shariq, a senior neurology and physiology major. “At the end of the day, I think you can make money off of anything if you’re passionate about it.”




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