Nearly every Thursday during the academic year, 45 children from Holy Angels Catholic School take a chartered bus to Marian University where they are greeted by students who spend a couple of hours mentoring them.
The local youth—or “little buddies” as they are known in the College Mentors for Kids program—range in age from first through fifth grades. By exposing Holy Angels students to real college life, Marian students are raising awareness among kids who may think earning a college degree is beyond their reach.
Of the 45 Indianapolis children who participate, 60 percent live in single-parent homes and more than 90 percent live in households with incomes near poverty level, qualifying them for free and reduced-price school lunches. The educational attainment of adults living in these homes is low, with about 40 percent reporting having had “some" college.
The goal is to inspire children and families to change their thinking about the importance of college. A typical afternoon includes a theme based on a college question. The kids may have a snack while reading a book of the week, hear from a guest speaker, or engage in a hands-on activity designed to help them believe they can achieve whatever they want in life.
Alex Card, a double-major in chemistry and biology at Marian University who is entering his second year as president of Marian’s College Mentors for Kids (CMK) chapter, says mentors encourage children to dream about their futures. “Everything we do is designed to demonstrate the value of pursuing a college education.”
Card has participated in the program for four years. “Many of these kids don’t have positive influence from adults in their lives who are encouraging them to prepare for college. In just a couple of hours each week, I feel like I’m making an impact and potentially changing lives.”
Nationally, 2016 data collected by the CMK headquarters indicates:
- 87 percent of little buddies understand the value of community service and 66 percent go on to volunteer in the community.
- Nearly 90 percent develop an interest in attending college because of their participation in the program, noting they gained insight about the benefits of earning a college degree as well as career opportunities.
- More than 80 percent reported working harder in school because they were involved in CMK.
- 79 percent graduated from high school, with 76 percent of those graduates continuing their educations. Of the 76 percent, 92 percent attended college and eight percent attended technical or trade schools.
- More than 95 percent of former participants avoid state criminal justice systems and 74 percent are employed.
Card, who is applying for admission to medical school (including the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Marian), began his involvement as a volunteer and progressed to general manager before being appointed chapter president.
His responsibilities include coordinating engaging activities for the kids, like nature walks and talks in the EcoLab, learning about the value of teamwork in varsity sports from coaches and student-athletes, and exploring what nurses do in the university’s state-of-the-art Simulation Lab. Card also interacts with teachers and administrators at Holy Angels Catholic School and oversees campus fundraising activities and the chapter’s treasury.
One of just two student representatives on College Mentors for Kid’s national board of directors, Card and other board members are working to expand the group’s footprint in other states, starting with universities along the eastern seaboard. The nonprofit currently has chapters at universities in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. Its national headquarters is located in Indianapolis.
Founded in 2003, Marian University’s chapter of College Mentors for Kids won the chapter of the year award and chapter leader of the year award in 2012. Last year, Class of 2017 graduate Patrick Sanders was recognized as CMK’s “Mentor of the Year,” and Dr. Christy Moore, an associate professor of reading and literacy at Marian, was named “Site Manager of the Year.”
Moore, who serves as faculty advisor for group, notes that college mentors must be 100 percent committed to the program. “We see disappointed faces if mentors aren’t there to greet their buddies,” she says. “It’s so important for these kids to know their mentors care and want to spend time with them.”
Of the 45 Holy Angels students participating this year, 30 of them were also participants last year. In fact, many of them begin the program in first grade and have the same Marian mentor until that student graduates, Moore noted. Some mentors and buddies continue to keep in touch after the program ends. “I know one Marian University graduate who is now helping her buddy complete a college application,” added Moore.
To learn more about College Mentors for Kids at Marian University, contact Dr. Christy Moore at email@example.com or call 317.995.6460.