NDSU mentoring program offers friendship, role models
Published January 03, 2014
Smiles and laughter, reinforced with pizza and cookies, made for a wonderful, memorable lunch. And there were brightly wrapped holiday presents, too.
A group of youngsters from Fargo’s Madison Elementary School were the center of attention for the special campus visit. The children have ongoing friendships with people from the NDSU College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Allied Sciences through a mentoring program.
Once each week during the school year, 18 volunteers from the college visit Madison School to foster positive relationships with the children and serve as role models for them. The NDSU faculty, staff and students were each matched with a young person, and they spend lunch and recess together.
On Dec. 20, the tables were turned; the children visited their mentors at NDSU’s Sudro Hall.
“It’s really important to give these kids the opportunity to spend some time with positive role models from the community. It’s dually beneficial because we come from a university and we give them contact to that world,” explained Dana Davis, the college’s director of recruitment, who organized the project. “It’s about showing the kids that college is something they can do, even if they don’t have someone in their family who has gone to college or it’s not discussed at home. It’s important for them to know that it can be part of their future.”
The school visits are patterned after similar ones initiated by Big Brothers Big Sisters. Madison School administrators recognized the success of that program and reached out, looking for more community partners. The NDSU College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Allied Sciences, which has held after-school projects for several years at the school, quickly joined in.
“Some of our kids don’t have opportunities for adult relationships. So if they can meet with someone on a regular basis, it is a special thing for them,” said Bobby Olson, Madison’s principal. “It’s important to show them that there is life after high school. I think this is a good thing overall for everyone, and we’re having a lot of fun with it.”
By looking at the grins on the faces over the pizza boxes, it’s difficult to tell who enjoys the experience more, the children or the mentors.
“It’s hard to say ‘no’ when you’re asked to help out with something like this. Just seeing a kid for an hour can make their whole day,” said Jace Berg, an NDSU freshman in pre-pharmacy from Lisbon, N.D., who is paired with a fourth-grader named Sam. “The Madison kids always have smiles on their faces when they see us, and it’s great to be able to help them out.”
Across the room, Cynthia Naughton, senior associate dean for the college, had a photograph taken with her student, a first-grader named Brianna.
“She gets to establish a friendship with someone she knows will be there once each week,” Naughton said. “Brianna sets our agenda – she decides what we talk about and we play games. It is a very easy, comfortable relationship.”
That’s what this project is all about – positive guidance through caring, sharing and friendship.
“I have sons and I never had a daughter. It is so fun to visit with such a nice young lady,” Naughton said, smiling at Brianna. “It just warms my heart.”