A second-year in finance at Ohio State, Taryn Davis poses with her mentee Fernanda at a College Mentors For Kids event. Credit: Courtesy of Mara Mason | Lantern Reporter

After not seeing her “little buddy” over summer vacation, Hannah Baise wondered if Ella would be excited to see her, or if she would even remember her name.

Then, when her bus arrived at the Ohio Union turnaround, Ella bounded out and jumped into Baise’s arms, chatting excitedly about her summer. Baise, a fourth-year in consumer and family financial services, now remembers this as one of her fondest memories part of College Mentors for Kids, in which she now serves as the vice president of programming.

College Mentors for Kids provides guidance to inner-city Columbus children in first through fifth grade, hosting the mentees three times a week on campus. It’s one of the many student organizations that focus on uplifting nearby youth by building supportive relationships.

The large group of mentorship pairs gather in the Union to participate in a multitude of different activities to learn and bond, including science projects and a recent visit from the Columbus Zoo.

Baise said CMFK focuses on activities revolving around service, diversity, wellness and higher education, sometimes pairing with other organizations at Ohio State for activity time to bring the mentees a sense of what college is like.

She said pairing with other organizations “shows [the kids] that college is a place for everybody, and there’s nothing stopping them from coming to college.”

“Our goal is to not only bring out the best in the children, but bring out the best in the mentors as well,” Baise said.

Taryn Davis, a second-year in finance, said she first noticed the large group of children in the Union her first semester at Ohio State, and knew she wanted to be involved with the organization.

“I got paired with Fernanda the first semester of sophomore year,” she said “and it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done.”

According to its website, the Ohio State chapter of CMFK serves more than 200 children from surrounding elementary schools.

The university has several other mentorship initiatives to influence surrounding communities.

The Latinx Space for Enrichment and Research program through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is a high school mentorship program for the Latinx community, which was created, founded and is directed by Frederick Aldama, a professor of arts and humanities.

LASER focuses on aiding high-school students in college preparation and the college application process.

“I decided that LASER would be a way for students at OSU to make a difference but also create community among the Latinx students at OSU precisely by working with the community,” Aldama said.

LASER is involved with nine Columbus high schools, called “hubs,” where two college undergraduate or graduate coordinators meet with students weekly to work with them on creating, setting and achieving short- and long-term goals.

“Just being there and showing the students that they matter is a huge thing,” Aldama said.

The program also hosts events like FAFSA workshops to help students navigate the financial side of college applications, and hosts Latinx Role Models Day.

Last year, Latinx Role Models Day brought more than 450 high-school students to Ohio State’s campus to spend time with undergraduate students and professionals in the community, Aldama said.

“We also bring in role models from the community,” he said, “of all different aspects, lawyers, professors, people in finance, people in pharmacy, doctors, et cetera, and they get to meet and do panels and workshops with the students.”

Laura Fernandez, a hub coordinator and graduate student in Latin American cultural and literary studies, said the mentorship program guides students through applying to college and scheduling courses while balancing a high-school workload.

She said the program is especially important because of the amount of Latinx students who don’t get a college degree.

“The statistics are so low for [Latinx] to get into college,” she said. “I’m Latina and I did it, but I don’t want to be seen as the exception. I want that to be the norm.”

Not only does LASER assist high-school students in academic achievement, it also knits two communities together.

“It has not only created a pipeline for Latinx high-school students to get into a college like OSU, but it has created a social, cultural, academic environment for Latinx students on campus,” Fernandez said. “Creating community on campus by working with community off-campus, it doesn’t get any better than that.”