College Mentors for Kids Paves the Way for Bright Futures

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At the IUPUI Campus Center, college students and elementary school children sit together in pairs, bent over picture books, pausing in between pages to chat and laugh. When the children stumble over words, their mentors act as patient guides, providing gentle corrections and words of encouragement. There is something hopeful in this small gathering as memories are made and bright futures are made possible.

Every week, College Mentors for Kids meets at the IUPUI Campus Center with the mission of inspiring growth and confidence in children while opening their eyes to the opportunities available to them. The non-profit organization fosters supportive relationships between college student mentors and their mentees, called little buddies, who are in 3rd-6th grades and visit from a local elementary school.

From the College Mentors for Kids IUPUI Facebook page.

Annabelle Ketchem, a freshman at IUPUI and a mentor in the program, has built a strong bond with her little buddy over the last year.

“My little buddy is the best,” Ketchem said. “She’s such a special kid. She’s curious beyond her years, and she has the potential to be really wise.”

Ketchem discovered College Mentors for Kids during freshman orientation and felt that the program was a perfect fit. Having grown up surrounded by many peers who never viewed higher education as a possibility, Ketchem felt a responsibility to show the next generation all they could accomplish.  

“Being on campus at IUPUI, I feel really propelled to let other people know how attainable this education is because we have such good scholarship programs here,” Ketchem said. “I definitely want other people to be able to consider that.”   

College Mentors for Kids teaches kids about careers, culture and community service through a variety of fun, hands-on activities. For one day’s activity, faculty from the Purdue School of Science visited to talk about engineering. After learning about 3-D printing and aerodynamics, the kids got to do some of their own engineering.

With their mentors’ guidance, the little buddies designed special paper airplanes with features to make them glide, rotate and whiz across the room. The children’s faces filled with pride as they saw their creations.

For another day’s activity, the little buddies and their mentors took a tour of IUPUI’s dorms. This early exposure to residential college life proved to be an exciting exper

From the College Mentors for Kids IUPUI Facebook page.

ience for the kids, and they were full of questions: Did the mentors live in the dorms? Was it better to live on campus or off campus?  Why was there a restaurant in one of the dorms?

After every learning activity and interaction with their mentors, the children in College Mentors for Kids come away with new perspectives for their futures. And these new perspectives make a real impact. According to the College Mentors for Kids website, 8 in 10 former little buddies graduated high school, 3 in 4 pursued post-secondary education and 2 in 3 reported volunteering for their community.

These numbers are staggering given the challenges that many children in College Mentors for Kids face. Most of the children come from poverty or low-income homes, and 80 percent don’t have a family history of higher education.

In the midst of these obstacles, it is crucial for children to have consistent, compassionate role models. Erika Plata, a senior at IUPUI and the president of College Mentors for Kids, talked about the importance of mentoring.

“One-on-one consistency is what we aim for at College Mentors,” Plata said. “Unfortunately, some of the kids don’t have that at home, so we just want to be there for them for anything.”

College Mentors for Kids not only makes an impact in children’s lives, but it also is gratifying for mentors and staff.

“I just love seeing the kids come out of the bus and hug you,” Plata said. “They just grow on you, and you don’t ever stop.”

Plata started out at College Mentors for Kids as a mentor her freshman year. Now in her fourth and final year with the program, Plata hopes to visit after graduation and see how the organization continues to grow and change lives. Managing a non-profit organization while living a busy college life has been demanding, but she is reminded of her purpose every week when she hears the little buddies’ stories.

“We give a lot to the little buddies, and they give a lot to us too,” Plata said. “We learn from them.”

To learn how to become a mentor in College Mentors for Kids at IUPUI, go to

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