Monday, November 25, 2013

Connect-U, Peer Mentoring at OU

Update May 28, 2014
ConnectU is a mentorship program at the University of Oklahoma that pairs new students with upperclassmen to provide each individual student with tools and resources to maximize success at OU.

Mentors can quickly provide consistency in the incoming students’ experience as well as introduce them to all opportunities at OU that they might not be able to find on their own. 

This student-led program chiefly communicates via social media, the preference of college students. Mentors, who also receive ongoing tips online, learn about their roles, good mentor characteristics, activity suggestions, possible mentee challenges, and ameliorating actions.

Applications: (Worth reviewing!)


Connect-U brings personalized mentoring to new students

Reagan Martin, The Oklahoma Daily 7:42 p.m. November 19, 2013

Photo by Reagan Martin
(Right) Ryan Shoemaker, an energy management sophomore and Connect-U campus liaison, and Emily Desantis, a visual communications sophomore and Connect-U Chair, pose with OU Men's Basketball coach, Lon Krueger. Connect-U mentors and mentees took a group tour of the Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday.


WHAT: Orange Leaf Meet-Up
WHEN: 3-4:30 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Orange Leaf at 1808 W. Lindsey

Apply for Connect-U
Those interested can fill out applications for mentors and mentees online on the Connect-U Facebook.

New Sooners wanting to learn the ins and outs of campus life from someone who has already experienced it can join Connect-U, a new mentoring program this semester.
Founded by Emily DeSantis, fine art visual communications sophomore, and Dillon Brown, religious studies junior, Connect-U is a mentoring program that matches new freshmen and transfer students with upperclassmen.

DeSantis and Brown came up with the idea for Connect-U in the spring when they were reminiscing about their various freshman year experiences in greek life and the President’s Leadership Class. Both loved the positive interaction in their different activities—especially the opportunity they had to network with other students.
“We wanted to make something that anyone could be apart of,” said Brown, vice chair and co-founder of Connect-U.

Upperclassmen Connect-U mentors give advice and hang out with their mentees, and the pairs are expected to contact each other twice a month to meet for coffee or talk, Brown said.
“We want Connect-U to be something that you look forward to—not see it as an obligation.”

The organization took part in a group tour of the Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday for mentors and mentees and will have an Orange Leaf meet-up on Sunday for members and nonmembers.
However, the founders are discovering the hardship of getting members to actually participate in a new campus organization.

“We don’t have the name recognition yet, like other organizations. We have had to rely on our advertising and word-of-mouth,” DeSantis said.
Despite its newness, Desantis said they have received many applications from students who they and other members did not know.

With 68 pairings, Brown said he wants to keep the mentoring one-on-one.
“We want our mentors to get to know one mentee pretty well rather than kind of know several mentees,” Brown said.

Ryan Shoemaker, an energy management sophomore and Connect-U campus liaison, joined the organization because of his experience during his freshman year.
“When I first came to OU, I didn’t know that many people on campus. I found people who had the same interests as me and served as my mentors,” Shoemaker said.

He said he thinks it is essential that people who are new to OU have a mentor to help them out.
“I wanted to help out,” he said.

Miranda Laurion, an environmental sustainability junior, and her mentee, Christina Hamilton, a geophysics freshman from Trinidad, joined the program for different reasons.
Hamilton said she got an email to join the organization, and since she was new to Oklahoma she thought it would be a good idea.

Laurion said she joined because her roommate is on the program’s exec committee.
“I thought it would be a fun thing to do because I don’t know many underclassmen, and I thought I could show them around,” Laurion said.

Other students, like Bethany Mulanax, joined after being encouraged by upperclassmen.
“My Camp Crimson SGLs told me to get involved, so when I got the email I thought it would be good way to do that,” said Mulanax, a health and exercise science freshmen.

Brown said he hopes Connect-U will grow next year by having more applicants, having more organization-wide events and receiving funding from the Student Government Association.
With extra funding, Brown said he will be able to get a new database to match mentors with mentees and also fund more Connect-U events.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

After-School Programs, Edmonton-style

Kids On Track


Kids On Track started in September of 1992. On October 31, 1995 Kids On Track was officially registered as a non-profit society in the province of Alberta. In August of 1996 we recieved our charitable status with the Government of Canada. This longevity has created credibility with families and other service providers such as schools, police and social workers. Our long-term commitment to at-risk families builds trust and provides stability for children and youth.

Our Programs!

Kids On Track offers a unique blend of social, recreational, and spiritual programs. By offering this blend of programs each individual program becomes more effective than if it stood alone. This has been particularly valuable in building relationships with the families that we serve. The parents and children develop relationships with the volunteers and staff who are able to become mentors of at-risk children and youth.

The almost dizzying array of programs from September through June include:

School Clubs (kids grades 1-6)
Family Fun Night (once a month)
Parent's Cafe (parent support during Family Fun Night)
Family Celebrations (holidays with Kids on Track)
L.I.T.E.S. (Leaders In Training Experience, grades 7 and up)
Rainbows & Prisms (grief recovery for family break-up)
Shift Youth (Friday night youth programming)
Character Connex (school assembly program)

Programs July-August

Kids Summer Day Campus (kids entering grades 1-5)
Kids Summer Camp (kids entering grades 3-5)
L.I.T.E. Summer Program (intensive leadership training, kids grauduating grade 6 and up)

Linda Roussel is the founder and director of Kids On Track, an organization with a seventeen year track record of outstanding ministry to urban kids in Edmonton. She was a community health nurse for over 25 years and has a one year specialization in multicultural health services. Linda has extensive experience in connecting with parents of at risk children and a passion for helping children and youth become all they can be.

We recently became acquainted with Linda at the National Mentoring Symposium in Canada.  Even among "mentoring people," who are already exceptional, Linda is far above most. Words cannot quite describe her heart, organization, vision, humility, intellect and goodness.  No wonder this program has grown and developed.  Resiliency is a Roussel family hallmark!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Quality Standards & Self-Assessment Checklist

Again, we borrow from Mentor Michigan for handy, professional resources to check our own programs--

Mentor Michigan Quality Program Standards for Youth and

Mentor Michigan Program Self-Assessment Checklist (intended for program-level, not organization-level).

Link to page:,4618,7-193-27047-123108--,00.html

Note how MASSMENTORS uses quality standards and assessment.  Quality standards and outside assessment illustrate a certain standard of efficacy for mentoring programs, thus an endorsement for funding.

Monday, November 18, 2013

High School Teen Mentoring Resources, Canada

At the recent National Mentoring Symposium in Banff, Canada's first national mentoring conference, many programs and resources were featured.  Guide links are below.

Teens using these guides vary from career tech to high school to college.  We can find much adaptable for our existing or new programs.

High School Teen Mentoring Resources

The High School Teen Mentoring resources are a result of a four year pilot program by Advanced Education and Technology in partnership with Big Brother Big Sister of Edmonton and Area, and supported by Alberta Education. These resources are to be used in combination: High School Teen Mentoring Handbook, High School Teen Mentoring Activity Book and High School Teen Mentoring Bin Resources. Each publication is available for downloading in PDF format below or can be ordered in print format (just make sure you type in the exact name of the resource you would like to order in the "Keyword or Phrase" field).
These three resources are available free in Alberta for use in various mentoring courses and programs province-wide such as:
  • Career and Technology Studies (CTS) mentoring courses in Alberta schools,
  • extra curriculum mentoring courses or programs through Alberta schools,
  • school partnership mentoring programs, or
  • mentoring programs through other organizations.
The High School Teen Mentoring Handbook provides you with valuable information on how to be a mentor, including:
  • building a great mentoring relationship
  • surprises and myths about mentoring
  • developing your conversation and listening skills
  • determining your learning styles
  • protecting your mentee

High School Teen Mentoring Resources (webpage)                                                        
Activity Book      
Mentoring Bin Resources    

Ret. 11-15-13
Updated links, 6-4-14

Friday, November 15, 2013

Financial Literacy Online

The Khan Academy is famous for its online courses so that students, parents, those simply interested in learning and others can learn.  Recently, Bank of America and the Khan Academy partnered to offer an easily accessible and interesting way to understand money and acquire better money habits. 

What young person--or person of any age--does not need to learn about money?
Ret. 11-15-13

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Beginning of El Reno's Students Striving for Success

This innovative mentoring program, implemented in 2013-14, is a model for beginning other mentoring groups. Cleverly, the program is governed by a  standing committee "under the umbrella" of an existing nonprofit, in this case, the El Reno Public Schools Foundation. Even more cleverly perhaps, the program is conceived and driven by the entire community!

This is the presentation made by Dana Gibson at the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence's Fall Forum 2013. 

"It Takes a Village"
(F) Michelle Ahern, Rana Seymour, Toni Grantham, Dana Gibson, Suzanne Thompson
(B) Brooke Stroman, Richard Steanson, Curtis Blanc

In 1996 Hilary Rodham Clinton chose an ancient African proverb to title her book, It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.  It offers a timeless reminder to us that children will thrive only if their families thrive and if society cares enough to provide for them.  When a small group of concerned citizens in El Reno began meeting, we all realized that there are things we can do to show our children that we will help them to thrive and that our village cares enough to provide for them.  We talked, we asked for participation from our city, we sought help from experts, we formally organized our program, we solicited mentors from within our village, and we began mentoring in the El Reno Public Schools within 12 months.
Curtis Blanc and I had our first of many discussions in the fall of 2012 after the grades of our public schools were published. The results were dismal. It was clear to us that something could be done and that we were just the ones to get that something started. We talked about mentoring in the schools, with emphasis on reading and encouraging parental involvement for our school children. We talked about what this board should look like and began to send out information to various members, asking them to join us. We included ministers; leaders of Mercy Hospital; Brooke Stroman, Community Outreach Director ERPS; principals from all the schools; bankers; insurance people; DHS; city leaders; and anyone else active in our community. 
I am a very close friend of Suzanne Thompson, OFE board Member, and El Reno citizen.  Suzanne and I had been in conversation about a program, and she suggested we invite Beverly Woodrome to a meeting to help with our discussion.  Beverly, as you know, is director of the David and Molly Boren Mentoring Initiative with OFE.   The results of this meeting were nothing less than amazing.  Beverly’s encouraging us to work toward a mentoring program led to another meeting with Mission Mentors, Fairview, Oklahoma. After this, we were truly hooked, and the enthusiasm was obvious in all of our committee members.

Craig McVay, newly chosen superintendent of El Reno Public Schools, encouraged us to form a partnership with the El Reno Public Schools, elect officers, design a brochure, and most importantly, ask the El Reno Public Schools Foundation to adopt our committee. This step would speed up our process immensely. We became part of their foundation, which gave us a 501(c)(3) immediately, allowing us to accept tax deductible donations quickly.  We gave our committee its name, Students Striving for Success, had brochures printed, and started soliciting mentors.
We now have over 125 mentors, meeting for one hour each week in the schools with their mentees.  There is talk all over El Reno about relationships, community pride and how much fun everyone is having.  There have been obstacles. Nothing happens without them, but we are diligently working through them.  We are certainly proud of Students Striving for Success and mentors Making a Difference.

Senator Clinton closes her book with this thought, "just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes children to raise up a village to be all it should be.  The village we build with them in mind will be a better place for us all."

[View Students Striving for Success program’s amazing recruitment video, which is a model for all to consider.]
I would like to introduce some of the most important pieces to our puzzle:  Brooke Stroman, El Reno Public schools, has made this process seamless.  Her knowledge of mentoring and her love for our school children has been the catalyst we all needed. We hired Rana Porter Seymour as Brooke's assistant, and together they are a very strong and effective team.  Toni Grantham, my friend and treasurer of our committee never considers a task impossible.  Richard Steanson, vice-chairman with a servant’s heart and tireless volunteer spirit, Michelle Roblyer Ahern, secretary, has never missed a planning meeting and has been on board from the start.

Last but certainly not least, Curtis Blanc, El Reno Public schools Foundation board member, CASA volunteer, Mercy Hospital El Reno board chairman and the one that tries to tie my feet to the ground.  We want to thank OFE for inviting us and helping us.  Please take this time to ask questions of the panel.

Shared by Dana Gibson, Chairman, Students Striving for Success