Every Wednesday afternoon, you’ll see a group of college students walking with a group of elementary students through the Valley. While the energy of children is not something you hear and see every day on a college campus, College Mentors for Kids brings that to campus every week.
Senior elementary education major and president of College Mentors for Kids Ashleigh Allison said that this program has been on AU’s campus since 2001 and was one of the first programs to exist.
“College Mentors for Kids is a one-on-one mentorship program,” Allison said. “We partner with Anderson Elementary School to bring students in first through fourth grade on campus every Wednesday.”
While on campus, she said that the students focus on activities that are in higher education and careers, culture and diversity and community service.
“At Thanksgiving time, we do a Thanksgiving meal and talk about the tradition of the holiday,” she said. “Some of our students don’t get to celebrate Thanksgiving with big meals like I celebrate and probably a lot of us on campus celebrate.”
The students will also experience a Christmas event called Christmas Around the World.
“We have some students coming to talk about what Christmas is like in other countries,” Allison said. “The students will go to different stations to learn about each country.”
Some activities that the students have already participated in this semester include writing letters to Santa and veterans in the English department, trick-or-treating to different departments and visiting and exploring the nursing department.
Allison said that she wanted to be president of College Mentors for Kids because she loves the mentoring role, and she also wants to work in administration at a school someday.
“Being the president of College Mentors has been a really good opportunity to work alongside college students, but still get to experience the administration role of the program,” Allison said. “It’s really cool to watch from a president standpoint how the relationships between the AU students and the elementary students progress throughout the year.”
She said that she doesn’t think all of the mentors realize how much of an impact they really have on the kids.
“When you become a mentor, you start to realize how much of an impact you’re making,” Allison said. “I just get to watch the kids transform, and it’s really heartbreaking at times to see how sad the kids are when their mentor can’t make it or is sick that week.”
She said that she would encourage people to join College Mentors for Kids because it’s convenient and is an opportunity to be part of a huge impact.
“We meet on campus so you don’t have to go anywhere, and it’s only a two-hour time commitment,” Allison said. “You get to pour into a kid’s life, which is super exciting and it’s a really great way to meet new people on campus who are from different majors. We have majors from all across campus participating in the program.”
Senior elementary education major Megan Henderson has been part of College Mentors for Kids for four years and has been vice president of fundraising for two years. She said that she has had two little buddies throughout her time in the program.
“It’s just really special to develop a one-on-one relationship with these students,” Henderson said. “There’s a need for mentorship in their lives, and I’m happy that we’re able to fulfill that role.”
AU’s chapter does not receive any funding, so as vice president of fundraising, Henderson is in charge of fundraisers that help execute activities and transportation.
“Transporting the students to campus is one of our biggest expenses, but we think it’s worth it to have them experience life on a college campus,” she said. “We fundraise in various ways like sending out letters and Yankee Candle sales.”
Sophomore elementary education major Madelyn Kidder joined College Mentors for Kids this semester, and she said it has been a great experience for her as an education major.
“I’ve been able to see how my little buddy’s personality impacts his learning,” Kidder said. “It has given me practice to use different strategies to help him grow.”
She also said that the mentorship has helped her develop more patience and discipline with students.
“I have learned that you have to find a balance between being your buddy’s friend and being a good role model by making sure they are being safe and respectful,” she said.
Kidder said that one of her favorite activity days she’s participated in so far was trick-or-treating with the students to different departments on campus.
“My buddy really liked getting to go to each department to see what they did,” she said. “I really enjoyed seeing how excited he got, not only about the candy, but the things that all the professors had to say.”