For Campus Corps mentor coach Katyi Frost, one of the more rewarding experiences in working with high-risk youth in the community is seeing the expression on the kids’ faces when they meet with their CSU student mentor each week.
“Their faces just light up,” said Frost, a junior human development and family studies (HDFS) major. “A lot of these youth, they don’t have people that are stable in their lives. And for them to show up and have that mentor be here and their face, I just don’t even know how to describe it.”
Campus Corps pairs at-risk youth with a CSU mentor, who meets once a week for four hours on campus in a group setting with other mentors and youth.
The kids are often referred into the program from the juvenile justice system but can also be at risk from bullying at school or because of potential stresses that come with a low-income environment.
In the five semesters since the program officially started, Campus Corps Director Jennifer Krafchick said 550 youth and 700 CSU students have participated in the program.
Although most students are in the HDFS program, any CSU student is eligible to participate. They must fill out an application, passing a FBI background check and being selected into the program. Students receive three upper division credits for participating.
Once selected, participants go through about 20 hours of training that covers how to interact with youth, what to do if a mentee discloses potentially harmful information and how to redirect a youth if they’re talking about inappropriate topics.
“It’s really intense,” Frost said of the three-day training. “It’s really important that the mentors know how to address an issue when it comes up.”
This semester’s training is almost over and the youth will be on campus for the first next week meeting their CSU mentors.
Breaking up into home groups, the students and youth explore campus, get help with homework, participate in group activities like soccer and crafts and sit down for a family style meal.
Krafchick said research studies indicate the benefits of mentoring.
“Research shows that having consistent and caring adults in their lives can truly change the trajectory of an adolescent’s life,” Krafchick said. “It means so much to have someone who is reliable and available to them and all about them for four hours each week. It makes such a huge difference for the kids we see.”
Frost remembered one time in particular when one of the youth mentioned a school play she was participating in.
When she asked the young girl about it the next week, “her jaw just dropped. She was like ‘how did you remember that?’ Those kids don’t get that kind of thing. Remembering even the tiniest details just makes the biggest difference.”
Campus Corps got its start in spring 2009 when HDFS received a call from the Fort Collins assistant district attorney and juvenile court magistrate asking for help to provide additional services to youth in the community.
HDFS staff spent a year writing grants, conducting research and training student mentors and the program was up and running in spring 2010. The program is paid for with some help from the university with the majority of the money coming from outside grants.
Juvenile court magistrate Kent Spangler said Campus Corps provides a great opportunity for at risk youth to see what life on a college campus is like and to give them a sense of belonging.
“From my perspective as magistrate, it’s an amazing program on a bunch of different levels,” Spangler said. “It gives these kids a chance to rub elbows with students who have done really well and are in college.”
“It’s a huge source of help for at risk kids. It really helps their behavior and to produce good citizens.”
Senior reporter Austin Briggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.