Founded in 2001, Colby Cares About Kids (CCAK) is a program that pairs Colby students (mentors) with local youth (mentees) in one-on-one mentoring pairs for students in grades K-8 within the Greater Waterville area. The goal of the program is to provide the youth with an additional role model and friend who can be a consistent part of their school experience. It began with an introductory English class going into local schools to work with kids with approximately 20-30 mentors. Today CCAK over 300 Colby mentors paired with mentees at 13 schools throughout the Greater Waterville Area. This mentoring initiative is one dimension to the college’s commitment to encouraging civic responsibility as an essential part of a liberal arts education.
The mentors in the CCAK program span all four class years at Colby. Most students join the program during their first or second year and continue with their mentee until graduation. Mentors are expected to visit their mentee for at least one hour per week during the school year and commit to spending a minimum of three semesters in the program. They meet with their mentees at school and visit during both academic and non-academic time. The program not only emphasizes that a strong mentor is a stable, consistent, and patient role model to their mentee but also stresses the impact of showing up week after week.
The site coordinators of the CCAK program are social workers and guidance counselors who work at the 13 local schools. They refer mentees to the program and are the primary contact person for mentors at the school. Site coordinators work closely with mentors and are able to answer specific questions regarding both the mentees and the school. Additionally, the site coordinators handle the scheduling of visits and facilitate logistical elements of CCAK within the schools.
Staff members from the Office of Civic Engagement and Community Partnerships facilitate communication between site coordinators and mentors. They are responsible for the recruitment and training of new mentors and work to match them with mentees. Staff help troubleshoot difficulties that arise throughout the semesters and serve as the primary liaison between the schools and Colby mentors.
The Mentor Leadership Committee (MLC) is a group of exemplary CCAK mentors who are selected to support the CCAK program and its mentors. In addition to typical mentoring responsibilities, each member is a representative of the school at which they have previously mentored. MLC members have the opportunity to attend and help facilitate new mentor trainings as well as interview prospective mentors. Facilitating communication between mentors and site coordinators is the primary responsibility of the MLC member.
Every Fall the CCAK program has approximately 75-100 Colby students apply to become mentors. After a preliminary application, an online safety training, and an in-person interview, new mentors attend a series of trainings before they are matched at a school with a mentee. Once they have completed the necessary steps to apply and have been paired with a local K-8 student, new mentors set up a schedule with their site coordinator and begin to visit their mentee weekly. While there is a 3-semester minimum requirement, many mentors often are involved for the entire four years of their Colby experience.
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