December 5, 2013

Cornell Students Mentor Elementary School Students

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Earlier this week, Cornell students said goodbye to students from the Caroline Elementary School who they had mentored throughout the semester — handing out holiday gifts and candy as the students piled out of the buses.

The students are part of Cornell’s chapter of College Mentors For Kids, a national nonprofit organization designed to instill in children from low-income areas the importance of higher education and cultural awareness. During the semester, students from the Caroline Elementary School came to Cornell to participate in educational activities with upperclassmen who acted as their mentors.

The organization was launched at Indiana University in 1996 and has now spread to 23 colleges across four states. According to Andrew Wald ’16, marketing director for College Mentors for Kids, the Cornell branch of the organization started this year with a $20,000 donation from the Sigma Pi fraternity’s education fund.

After ClubFest, College Mentors For Kids at Cornell received more than 100 applicants. Today, it has 35 mentor-buddy pairs. Some of the activities this year included a scavenger hunt across campus and a trip to Schoellkopf Field, Wald said.

“Most of them love sports, but to see how they’re played on a university level and to see the size of the stadiums really got them excited,” he said.

One of the main goals of College Mentors for Kids is to provide buddies with the opportunity to interact with older students while on a college campus, according to Steven Forman ’16, general manager for College Mentors for Kids.

“[Buddies] are able to hang out and really develop a bond with older people,” Forman said.

The organization also aims to promote higher education among young students, according to Jasmine Khayami ’17, one of the mentors.

“I definitely think we are making a difference for these kids. By buddies coming to the campus and seeing college life, hopefully, they will be more likely to consider higher education as an option for their future,” she said. “Whether or not they choose higher education in their futures, I think the experience they’ve gained from having a mentor and coming to campus will be something they will remember.”

In addition to helping their buddies, Cornell students also gain “a great leadership opportunity and community service act” from serving as mentors, according to Jacob Laufer ’15, president of Cornell’s College Mentors For Kids.

“It is such a valuable experience on both ends; we end up learning just as much as they learn from us,” Laufer said.

Khayami said she thinks the program is a “rewarding” experience for mentors and buddies.

“Just seeing how excited they are to see their mentors or do whatever activity we have planned proves just how much they love coming here,” she said.

Although Laufer said the program has benefited the Cornell community, he added that there is still room for improvement. Students hope to work on bettering communication within the organization in future semesters, as well as potentially expanding its efforts, Laufner said.

“The program has potential to be a staple in this community and to expand to other elementary schools,” he said.

Wald echoed Laufer’s sentiment, saying he wants to expand this program because of the benefits to the young buddis who participate.

“We know it can affect more kids,” Wald said.