College Mentors for Kids
Writer / Stephanie Duncan
Abby Udelhofen and Larson Pax are two college students on a mission. As leaders in the Butler University chapter of College Mentors for Kids, they both want to spread the word about this unique program that helps local elementary school students in need.
College Mentors for Kids is a nonprofit program that offers elementary school children weekly after-school activities focused on higher education, diversity/culture and community service. College students at Butler volunteer as mentors to help their students, or “little buddies,” understand the importance of education, cultural understanding and giving back to their community.
Originally started in 1994 at Indiana University, a second chapter was started at Butler in 1995 and has been helping students for 20 years. Currently the Butler chapter helps 80 kids, ranging from first through fifth grade, from two different Indianapolis schools. The program busses kids to Butler campus two times a week: students from Indianapolis Public School (IPS) #60 on Wednesdays and students from IPS #43 on Thursdays.
Udelhofen and Pax are both Vice Presidents of Programming for College Mentors and really get to organize and plan all the activities that the “little buddies” and mentors participate in together. Both Udelhofen and Pax started out volunteering as freshmen and quickly fell in love with the program and the kids they got to teach.
“It’s really powerful seeing these kids grow over time,” Udelhofen explained. “They go through so many challenges, and with this program, they get to take a step away from that and just be a kid.”
Pax remembers a particular fifth grader that she’s known since he started the program in first grade. She explained that he was branded as a tough kid, and it was really hard to get him to open up.
“You could see that every week he came back, that wall was breaking down,” she said. “I could see him light up when he would get on the bus every week.” Pax said she is really going to miss kids who graduate this year because they have been a part of the program since she started.
Pax explained why this program is different from other tutoring programs that might be similar. “The kids get bussed to Butler, so they can spend time on an actual college campus,” she said.
While other programs might focus solely on homework from school, College Mentors does not. All activities relate to one of the three themes: higher education, diversity/culture and community service. “We want to open their minds to new ideas and concepts they might not be exposed to otherwise,” Pax explains.
An example of one of these activities focused on diversity had the little buddies learn an Israeli dance. They had Butler professors teach a unique dance and explain the cultural meaning behind the dance, so the kids learn something new in a fun and interactive way.
Having the kids bussed to campus allows the mentors to use professors as resources to show kids options for higher education. They also had a Chemistry Magic Day where a professor showed them fun experiment demonstrations.
Pax loves that the kids get exposed to different opportunities. She has seen children have better attendance in school and improved behavior after joining the College Mentors program. “People will always tell these kids that they can’t do something. But I’ve learned they are smart and capable and deal with challenges more maturely than most people,” she said.
Udelhofen also wants to change that mindset. “These kids have so much to offer. In the right environment with support, a kid can completely change!”
Udelhofen and Pax are excited for the future of College Mentors. “We have been so successful that we are adding another school next year, so we will be helping more kids three days a week instead of two!” Udelhofen said.
The amount of volunteers they get every year is also telling as to how rewarding this program can be for the mentors as well. They have to turn people away every year. You can see how this program helps college students become role models. “You know you’re making a difference in the kids’ lives, but they are also making a difference in yours,” Pax said.
If you’re interested in learning more about College Mentors for Kids or how to help, check out their website at collegementors.org.