April 7, 2020
Students interested in assisting at-risk youth while simultaneously earning three credit hours towards their degrees can do so through the Campus Connections program. The program creates mentor-mentee relationships between UCCS students and at-risk youth in the community.
According to Campus Connections Program Manager Molly Cammel, the program originally started at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins and assists youth between the ages of 11 and 18.
However, the program at UCCS works solely with middle schools in District 11. “That may change in the future, but right now it’s just middle schoolers,” Cammel said.
The youth that participate in the Campus Connections program are referred to it by their school counselors. They may struggle academically or exhibit behavioral issues. Skipping classes, struggling to make friends or having a history of school suspension are all indicators of young students who may benefit from the program.
The youth participants often come from low-income families. “Most of them qualify for free and reduced lunch,” Cammel explained.
Counseling interns through UCCS’ Graduate Counseling program also assist youth members. “They are there to provide extra support to the youth if they need it, give them a quick check-in [and] chat about anything that may be going on in their lives,” Cammel said.
The first three weeks of the program are dedicated to mentor training. Cammel explained that the class starts at the same time as students’ other classes.
During mentor training, topics covered include: suicide prevention, what being a mandated reporter entails, inclusivity and diversity, and motivational interviewing. Campus security guest speakers also come in to talk with the mentors.
The middle school students begin attending after school during the fourth week. UCCS students spend time helping them with homework, eating dinner together and engaging in various educational and social activities. These activities include yoga and painting or learning about social justice, covering topics such as race, religion and sexual orientation.
“It is a fieldwork service-learning course with weekly assignments and readings,” Cammel said. “For example, an assignment might be to write a reflection paper about your week with your youth.”
The program is open to all majors and takes place during both the Fall and Spring semesters. Those interested can apply at UCCS.edu/campusconnections.