Campus Corps mentors help create community for at-risk youth

Megan Fischer

Colorado State University’s Campus Corps program helps at-risk youth who have been bullied or have been through the criminal justice system.

The program started in 2009 as a project to help youth and allowed only four majors to participate, but has since grown to allow anyone from any major in the University to participate. Students can apply to be a Campus Corps mentor, working for six hours one evening a week, Monday-Thursday. Campus Corps mentors receive three upper division credits toward their graduation requirements.

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“These are kids who had gotten into some kind of trouble, and it’s not rocket science that (if) there is not intervention, it will lead to a downward spiral,” said Jen Krafchick, a director of the Campus Corps program and an assistant professor in the human development and family studies department at Colorado State.

Campus Corps creates an environment that is beneficial beyond the student-youth relationship into the community, according to Krafchick.

“It is a win-win-win for students, kids and the community,” Krafchick said.

Mentors who are CSU students volunteer their time one evening each week to spend time with the youth in various activities.

“It’s just being a part of these kids’ lives, with all the bad stuff they have been though, and being there for them to support them,” said Ben Bongers, a human development and family studies junior and Campus Corps mentor.

Youth participate in various activities with their mentors, which include social activities, dinner and even getting homework help.

“They are smart kids,” Bongers said. “Sometimes it is just the crowd they are around or the circumstance they are in that is pulling them down.”

Allie Yerkes-Klatt, a psychology senior and mentor, said the one-on-one relationship in a group setting is a very unique part of the program that creates community between the youth and mentors.

“All the problems they have, they can talk about them here, but they don’t have to worry about them here,” Yerkes-Klatt said. “They know this is a safe environment.”

According to Yerkes-Klatt, the youth create relationships outside of the mentor-mentee relationship as well.

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“It definitely hits home and changes my perspective,” Bongers said.

According to Yerkes-Klatt, the program also changes perspectives for mentors, in addition to the youth.

“I thought I was diverse because I grew up in Chicago and my dad was in the Army,” Yerkes-Klatt said. “But then I joined Campus Corps and realized that my experiences weren’t as diverse as I thought they were.”

Krafchick said the mentors who participate in the Campus Corps program are fully committed to helping the youth and do not do it simply for upper division credit through the university.

“The mentors do it because they want to do it,” Krafchick said. “There is something that just touches their hearts, that becomes a part of who they are and they carry it with them.”

Collegian Staff Reporter Megan Fischer can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @MegFischer04.