20 Years of Campus Kids

Monday through Friday, 3:30 to 5:00, you will find 20 4th-6th grade students roaming around Gonzaga’s campus. Doing what, one might ask? These youth are: building relationships with college students; exposing themselves to a world of higher education; and learning how to work with their peers and become better friends. Together they are playing games that teach patience, trust, persistence, teamwork, and the joy of getting to see a familiar friend. All of this and more is what makes up CCASL’s Campus Kids program. Campus Kids is a one on one mentoring program that partners 4th-6th grade students with college students for one year and allows both individuals in the relationship to grow and learn from one another. CCASL offers the program at five different elementary schools in the surrounding neighborhood, and 20 selected students participate from each of these schools. In total, we have 100 mentees, 100 mentors, and 15 dedicated college student leaders making this program a yearly success.

Alongside the mentees, whom we hope have an incredible experience, our mentors are often enriched by the relationships they build and the lessons they learn, both about themselves and about the world around them. One mentor recalls a particularly moving year with his mentee:

“I went into Campus Kids with the sole interest of wanting to hang out with kids, and walked away with an interest in becoming an educator… I never realized how differently kids can grow up from the way I so fortunately did – to say it gave me some perspective would be an extreme understatement,” says Ryan Sullivan (Class of 2016).

Mentees often have difficult and challenging home environments and part of the Campus Kids mission is to provide a stable and committed role model for mentees to connect with. Despite sometimes coming from strikingly different backgrounds, Gonzaga students and local kids are able to connect and develop a friendship that has deep and lasting implications.

“First, it was hard to notice if or how I was making an impact on his life, until I missed a day of Campus Kids because I was sick. The next week I visited him at recess and he barely talked to me, and was clearly upset that I missed our day together. It wasn’t until then that I realized I was making an impact on his life just by being there for him, and being consistent and stable for him,” says Ryan, highlighting just how important the relationships between a mentor and student can be.

It’s amazing how much of an impact we as mentors can make for these kids. I don’t think I’ll ever forget my experiences in Campus Kids, and cannot wait for my second year of programming.”

Our hope here at CCASL is that every mentor, in one way or another, shares an experience similar to that of Ryan’s. Our goal is that every match finds strength and trust in one another, learns how to connect to people with different backgrounds and lifestyles, and gets to look forward to 3 hours each week in which the focus is on having fun and playing games. For the past 20 years the Campus Kids program has enriched the lives of those who are lucky enough to be a part of it, both in the larger Spokane community and here at Gonzaga. We look forward to the relationships that will continue to be built, and we are thankful for the support that allows us to create great experiences like the one Ryan, and so many others are able to have.

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