Campus Connections mentoring program nominated for scholarship

Ceci Taylor

Local youth, undergraduate students, graduate students and families alike have all benefited from Colorado State University’s popular Campus Connections Therapeutic Youth Mentoring program, and now all of that hard work is starting to pay off. 

CSU’s Campus Connections program has been nominated to receive the Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award. It has already been awarded the Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship and will compete with three other universities to win the Community Engagement Award in November. 


Photos courtesy of SOURCE

“To have the program be recognized nationally is really such an honor,” said Toni Zimmerman, a co-developer of the program. “We really feel like the award belongs to all of us. There have been so many community partners that have been deeply involved in this program where we partner in very significant ways.” 

Zimmerman, who is also a faculty member in the department of human development and family studies, said the Campus Connections program started 10 years ago when the magistrate of juvenile justice called some people together from the Fort Collins community to ask for creative ways to work with young people in the justice system. 

“At that time, the recession had hit and there wasn’t a lot of programming,” Zimmerman said. “So my colleague, Shelley Haddock, and I wrote a grant back then to develop a three-credit service-learning course called Campus Connections. Our vision was (that) undergraduate students, within the context of a course, could provide mentorship to vulnerable youth. We thought bringing the youth onto campus to join the class would allow the mentors to have a lot of support and supervision for the best outcome.”

Photos courtesy of SOURCE

Zimmerman said the program started out for helping youth in the justice system but as it grew other community systems, such as the department of human services and school counselors, started referring to Campus Connections as well. 

“It’s nice because the schools and the families themselves often identify youth who could use that extra help early on, so we sort of work as a prevention, as well as an intervention program,” Zimmerman said. 

Zimmerman said that receiving the award and being nominated for another is extra special because of the ways Campus Connections has benefited so many people, not just the youth. 

“We have research that shows really good outcomes for students that sign up for this course,” Zimmerman said. “As part of that … four hours every week on campus in a structured environment, … (mentors and mentees) eat dinner together, they go on a walk and talk across campus together, they do homework, they do fun, pro-social activities. The program is so popular that there are four different sections to accommodate everyone.”

It’s nice because the schools and the families themselves often identify youth who could use that extra help early on, so we sort of work as a prevention, as well as an intervention program,-Toni Zimmerman, Campus Connections co-developer

Shelley Haddock, another co-developer of the program, said that participants go to school more often, have reduced truancy, substance abuse and delinquency and have improved their psychological well-being. Haddock also said student mentors have a 127% higher chance of graduating and 63% lower odds of dropping out. 

“It’s an enormous honor to win this award,” Haddock said.  “We are very passionate about engaged scholarship, which basically leverages the resources of the university and creates intensive partnerships with community partners to solve community problems.” 

Zimmerman said that Campus Connections has also spread to other universities and is now being offered at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs and even the University of Auckland in New Zealand.


“The other sites are having great success,” Zimmerman said. “That’s so exciting for us because that means more youth and families and more university students and communities are benefiting from this program.”

Zimmerman also said that she encourages anyone who is interested in Campus Connections to get in contact with them by visiting their website. 

“I just would say we need you to make a difference,” Zimmerman said. 

Ceci Taylor can be reached at or on Twitter @cecelia_twt