UCCS students will be able to earn experience working with at-risk youth in the community, and those youth and families will have access to new resources, in the Campus Connections mentoring program that will launch with a kickoff event for stakeholders in fall 2018. Joe Wehrman, associate professor and chair, Department of Counseling and Human Services, College of Education, will serve as the director of the program at UCCS.
“There are more at-risk youth who need these services than there are mentors and volunteers who are able to help,” said Valerie Martin Conley, dean, College of Education. “This Campus Connections program will allow UCCS students to help work one-on-one with youth and their families while integrating that experience into their academic program. We believe we’re uniquely positioned to help address the problem in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area.”
Since developed at Colorado State University in 2010, the program has worked with more than 1,900 youth in Larimer County who were referred from the juvenile justice system, school counselors, resource officer and social service agencies. Students who participated had a 127 percent greater chance of graduating, reported greater success at school, improved their relationships with others, improved self-confidence and self-esteem, and had improved attitudes about their schoolwork and career. The program shows evidence that youth and mentors benefit significantly. For example, college aged students who serve as mentors graduate at higher rates than their peers.
Mentors and families meet once a week in a group setting for a structured walk and talk, academic support, family style meal and two group activities that the youth can choose. Mentors will meet before and after each session with mentor coaches and instructors to plan and debrief. The youth also have access to strength-based counseling services provided by the masters students in the clinical mental health and school counseling tracks. This therapeutic design pairs traditional mentorship with counseling and family support services to provide a high impact intervention.
Martin Conley moderated a panel with the CU Foundation Board of Trustees May 4 to share details of the program in northern Colorado and the results that organizations that work with youth experienced. She was joined on the panel by:
- Joe Wehrman, associate professor and chair, Department of Counseling and Human Services, College of Education
- Dan Hoff, executive director alternative and nontraditional schools, Colorado Springs School District 11
- Susan Colling, juvenile probation specialist, Colorado State Court Administrator’s Office in the Division of Probation Services, and coordinator, Alcohol Drug Driving and Safety Program
- Shelley Haddock, professor, Marriage and Family Therapy Program and Human Development and Family Studies Department, Colorado State University
- Leslie Patterson, director and founding member, Landmark Community School.