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Ohio State students provide college insight, mentoring to kids

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Members of College Mentors for Kids pose for a photo outside of Orton Hall.
Credit: Courtesy of Anne Kunkler

An Ohio State group that focuses on advising grade school children has grown.

College Mentors for Kids at OSU announced this semester it added a third school to its rotation, bringing the total number of children it works with to 144, about 20 percent more children than before, said Anne Kunkler, president of CMFK and a fourth-year in human development and family sciences.

CMFK is a national organization with chapters at 23 universities that brings first through fourth graders from local schools onto OSU’s campuses to help teach the importance of education, according to the organization’s website.

The three public schools CMFK works with are Linden STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Academy, West Franklin Elementary and now Hamilton STEM Academy. Each school has one day per week when 48 children come to campus and meet with their mentors, Kunkler said.

“Sometimes they get to go to labs, classrooms and dorms,” said Becca Lampe, a third-year in early childhood education and CMFK vice president of development. “They get to see all aspects of college, not just education-wise.”

There are 165 OSU students involved with the program. The program, which began nationally in 1995 at Indiana University, is now in its fifth year at OSU, Kunkler said.

The program focuses on three main areas: higher education and careers, culture and diversity and community service.

For higher education and careers, the program seeks to show how college can be attainable for everyone. The children get first-hand experience from working with the mentors and being on campus. The mentors also help prepare the children for the future by discussing careers, Kunkler said.

Most of the children would be first generation college students if they chose to go through higher education, so they often don’t have anyone to talk to about the prospects of college, Kunkler said.

“We realize that a lot of these kids are in challenging circumstances,” she said, adding CMFK aims to prepare the children for successful careers regardless of whether or not they go to college.

“Our main goal is for them to be productive members of society,” she said.

Claire Fox, a third-year in exploration and a mentor, said most of the children in the program are from broken homes and have little structure or routine, making it the mentors’ jobs to be a “steady rock” for the participants.

Another aspect of adulthood that CMFK works on with their mentees, or “little buddies” as the mentors call them, is financial responsibility.

The little buddies are rewarded with “buddy dollars” for good deeds done throughout the semester. The buddy dollars can be exchanged for prizes of various values, much like an arcade. The mentors teach budgeting by helping their little buddies save money for more expensive prizes, instead of going for the instant gratification of smaller prizes, Lampe said.

For culture and diversity, Kunkler said the goal is for the buddies to be “well-rounded.”

“They can see also that college is a mix,” Lampe said. “They can bring their traditions and their culture to a school and it will be acceptable.”

In terms of community service, little buddies are inspired by the tradition of Woody Hayes and his “pay it forward” mentality, Kunkler said. The mentors and mentees have events where they make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless and wish OSU students good luck during finals week on the Oval. The mentors try to inspire the children to do service in their own communities, with little things such as holding the door open for people and picking up trash.

Asumi Nam, a fourth-year in marketing and a marketing associate for CMFK, said the “pay it forward” mentality is part of why she’s involved with the organization.

Meredith Richards, a third-year in respiratory therapy, agreed.

“It’s a good feeling when you’re helping anyone,” she said, “but these kids especially, since they didn’t have the opportunities I did growing up.”

The OSU CMFK website said 89 percent of mentees’ parents saw scholastic improvement and 90 percent of the mentees said they “definitely” want to go to college.

CMFK also forwarded responses from some of the mentees to The Lantern in an email.

Ashton, a third grader, said, “(I want to go to college) so I can be a doctor and a mentor.”

Aeriyana, a fourth grader, said, “I get to have fun with activitys (sic) and spend time with my mentor.”

Kunkler, who also serves on the national board, said the organization is seeking to expand both nationally as well as at OSU.

“We want people to be involved,” she said. She added that the program is in desperate need of male students to serve as mentors, as most of the mentors are female.

Richards said it’s a fun experience, albeit difficult at times.

“Little kids are challenging for me,” she said, “but I like the challenge.”

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