College Mentors for Kids, Inc. was founded in 1995 by two Indiana University students who recognized the disparity between the affluent college campus and the surrounding, disadvantaged community. To bridge this gap, they created the mentor program and began serving children on the Indiana University and Butler University campuses in 1996. Today, our mission is to connect college students with the most to give to kids who need it most. During the 2015-2016 program year, College Mentors served over 2,200 at-risk kids through 2,500 college student volunteers on 33 campuses in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, New York, Missouri, Arizona, Maryland, and Virginia. The University of Kentucky chapter began serving kids in the fall of 2012.
Children from low-income and impoverished households or those without a significant family background of postsecondary education face many challenges. Cycles of poverty and low educational attainment tend to echo throughout generations. Mentors can support positive youth development through promoting emotional stability that carries over to other peer and adult relationships. Studies of mentorship have found that having a mentor is the most important predictor of college entry and degree attainment among impoverished youth.
At-risk youth often embody enormous unrealized potential that can be encouraged through College Mentors for Kids. Through weekly one-on-one mentoring activities focused on higher education and careers, culture and diversity, and community service, our “little buddies” gain critical access to positive role models and establish higher expectations for future achievement. College student volunteers get leadership experience and initiate a personal pattern of community service.
1. Human resources to expand the mentor program to kids in need of a mentor
Research suggests 8.5 million American children do not have consistent adult role models. Couple this with the shocking reality that 7.2 million children have at least one parent in jail. Since we know that 90% of human behavior is learned through observation, this may explain why we spend $5.7 billion annually on juvenile incarceration and why the high school graduation rate in our 10 largest cities is only 52%.
The persistence of childhood poverty and lack of positive role models have produced a crisis of youth development. Addressing it will involve multiple interventions. One essential solution is providing positive adult role models early in a child’s life, when their values and behavior patterns are being developed. Research shows that those patterns are largely established by 6th grade.
College Mentors for Kids offers a proven mentoring program that taps into the unique energy and resources of college students. It is our job to grow it so that more at-risk kids can be mentored.
The board of directors' role is to ensure that College Mentors for Kids remains sharply focused on our mission. We actively govern and lead through financial and legal oversight, engaging in strategic planning, and fundraising. Board members create their own action plans for involvement, attend board meetings, and make a personal financial contribution to the organization.
The board manages financial resources and plans for sustainability and growth. The finance committee maintains financial oversight of the organization and our annual audit, and ensures we follow generally accepted accounting procedures. In February 2013, we approved a new strategic plan for 2013-2016. It is the culmination of a two-year process that addressed key questions of organization vision, mission, and long-term outcomes. The strategic plan also sets out goals for program expansion, strategies for reaching this growth goal, and a new model for program funding. The board monitors progress towards goals in the strategic plan.
Goal 1: Contribute to positive youth development through mentoring relationships
Short term outcomes: improved behavior at school and in the home; positive relationship with a role model; increased self-esteem; increased awareness of community needs; awareness of and appreciation for other cultures
Long term outcomes: positive relationships with peers and adults; participation in community service; avoid problematic behaviors and the criminal justice system
Goal 2: Increase educational engagement among youth participants to encourage educational achievement and future economic self sufficiency
Short term outcomes: increased interest in school; increased awareness and interest in college; development of career goals; improved educational behavior and academic performance; enhance family awareness of college options and resources; increased opportunities for positive after-school programming
Long term outcomes: enrollment in high school and post-secondary education; workforce preparedness; achieving economic self-sufficiency; lasting partnerships between colleges, elementary schools, and surrounding communities
Goal 3:Increase community engagement among college students through mentoring relationships and leadership opportunities to develop community leaders and life long civil servants
Short term outcomes: develop positive, trusting relationships with youth; increased awareness of community needs and resources; increased engagement with college campuses; develop leadership and nonprofit management skills; enhance communication skills
The first 20 years of College Mentors for Kids' has produced transformative results for thousands of participants across America. The long-term outcomes of those served during the program's first 10 years were compiled and analyzed by a third-party as part of study to determine the effectiveness of our model. The results highlighted an increase in graduation rates, reduction in criminal activity, and a stunning reversal of the cycle of poverty.
Locally, College Mentor's for Kids' chapter at the University of Kentucky has grown substantially since its establishment in 2012. Once a path for aggressive expansion was set, we quickly recognized UK as having abundant potential for what we look for in a partner; a large, involved student body, a strong sense of community, and a need for our services.
Shelley M. Hunter has taken on the role of Executive Director at College Mentors for Kids.
Amanda Koushyar joined College Mentors as a program director in January 2005 and now serves as Executive Vice President. Amanda graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in management and a focus in finance and operations management. During her tenure at College Mentors for Kids, the program has grown from 15 to 33 sites and grown service numbers by five times.
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