Mentors with students

January is National Mentoring Month

“He’s always there for me…I like Wednesdays.” “She wants to see me succeed” “I feel important around him.” These are just a few things student mentees are saying about the positive impact that their mentor has on their self-esteem. Having a mentor or role model is an important, yet often overlooked, part of a student’s personal and educational development. By building trusting relationships with their mentors, students are able to feel better about themselves, come to school more regularly and set goals for their future. Many mentees also report that having a mentor helps them stay out of trouble, improve their grades and maintain better relationships with their peers.

Started in 1993 with only a handful of volunteers, the C-U One-to-One mentoring program now has more than 500 mentors with site coordinators at schools throughout Champaign and Urbana. The program has also grown to include community based scholarship programs for students pursuing post-secondary education. And students aren’t the only ones who benefit from the program. Adult volunteers consistently say that mentoring is the high point of their week, and mentors with children of their own feel that they are better parents because of the experience.

Becoming a mentor requires a time commitment of one hour per week for 9 months of the school year. Since school-based mentoring occurs during the school day, most volunteers wishing to become a mentor need to make arrangements with employers. However, a number of local businesses have established a company policy that allows for employees to mentor one hour during the work week. The program asks for a commitment of one year, with the understanding that, if the relationship is going well and both parties are still within the district, they will request another year’s commitment. The goal of the program is for mentors to continue with their student mentee through his or her high school graduation, but a 6-7 year commitment is not required. Barbara Linder, Mentor/Volunteer Coordinator for Urbana Middle School, says “Dedication comes in the form of making the one hour per week a priority in your schedule. It is showing up week after week that makes a difference in a child’s life.

Urbana school district currently has about 200 students who are matched one-on-one with a mentor, but there are still waiting lists at each school and many students who need a positive role model in their lives. “We would love to start an additional 50 mentors in February,” says Linder. Their second semester mentor training begins on Tuesday, February 2nd at the Urbana Free Library. To register for that training, email Angie Armstrong ( or call Barbara Linder at 337-0853.

Questions? Visit for answers, pictures, a video and an application form.


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