A family affair: youth mentoring program benefits mom and kids

For Liz Hicks, going back to school as an adult, was a big family decision. One that would help her to set an excellent example for her children and unknowingly bring a positive change to her family.

While earning her degree in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Colorado State University, Hicks participated in a unique outreach program at CSU called Campus Connections.

Campus Connections is a mentoring program for at-risk youth and a high-impact, multi-disciplinary University course for CSU students seeking an opportunity to enhance their education, hone their professional skills, and make a meaningful contribution to the lives of youth.

Caring and support

In 2016, Hicks referred her two sons to the program to help them as they were transitioning into new schools as they entered 6th and 8th grades.

“This was the perfect time for them to utilize and have a mentor while they were going through the transition,” said Hicks.

Campus Connections works with youth from many different circumstances. Some have been referred to the program from schools or the juvenile justice system because of behavioral reasons. However, many others are referred to the program because they are struggling with other types of concerns, including poverty, family issues, mental health, or relationship challenges.

“The youth at Campus Connections are just kids who need some support and a caring adult to spend time with,” said Jen Krafchick, the director of Campus Connections.

Youth participants attend lab one evening per week for four hours to receive support towards academic success and future-oriented goals, explore CSU’s campus, eat dinner and participate in pro-social activities with their CSU mentor and other youth participants.

Hick’s daughter, Sedona, also went through the program in 2017 to help her transition to homeschool.

The Hicks family saw a significant change in her family when her children attended Campus Connections.

“I think any family would appreciate having some sort of positivity coming into their home and giving families and parents an opportunity to engage with their children,” said Hicks. “It is just another added element that we as parents can use to connect with our kids and talk to them and have that extra support.”

Student mentors

All the Hicks children are still in touch with their mentors.

Liz Hicks remembers how excited her children were when they were looking through applications to choose their mentor.

“They were perfect fits for them,” said Hicks. “They are still wonderful fits in our family.”

Jackson Hicks, 17, is still in touch with his mentor Lia Clark.

Clark, an engineering major, joined Campus Connections because she thought it would be an excellent opportunity to do some good in the community. She had taken a course on the importance of community and wanted to find a way to give back immediately.

“Jackson and his family have so much love in their hearts, and they share it with as many people as they are kind,” said Clark. “They are a light in this world, and were it not for Campus Connections; I would never have met them.”

Her time in Campus Connections evolved into something that reminded her that life existed outside the realm of stress, tests, papers, and projects.

“My mentorship of Jackson meant more than just the credits on a transcript,” said Clark. “It grounded me in a very turbulent time in my life. Campus Connections did for Jackson what it did for me; it connected us to our community and gave us something to look forward to outside of our typical routine.”

Lindsea Pattison, a journalism and media communications student at CSU, met Sedona, the youngest of the Hicks children, during her sophomore year of college. She joined Campus Connections as a mentor because she wanted to help the community.

Pattison felt that her time with Sedona was a blessing because she became a role-model to a youth.

“I learned more than I could imagine. I didn’t realize that being a leader to her allowed her to look up to me in so many different ways,” said Pattison. She valued my time with her, and her face lit up when I walked into the room, which was heart-warming. It allowed me to grow and want to impact other people by being a leader in their lives.

Liz Hicks’ mentorship

Liz Hicks experienced Campus Connections as a mother to youth in the program and as a mentor to a youth.

While Hicks’ children were mentees at Campus Connections, she was pulled aside by Jen Krafchick, associate professor and Campus Connections director, to see if she would be interested in becoming an intern at Campus Connections the next semester.

“I asked Liz to get involved with Campus Connections as an intern as she had a passion for youth and many skills that would be an asset to the Campus Connections intern team,” Krafchick said.

Hicks joined Campus Connections to make a positive impact in the community that resonated with her family.

As a mentor, Hicks was part of a dynamic team designed to provide academic, social, and wellness support to youth mentees. Each week she took a 30-minute walk on campus with her mentee, spent an hour assisting her with homework and study skills, and had dinner together with other pairs in mentor families.

“Just within the last three years of us being in each other’s lives, it been really nice to be able to build this connection with her and her family and continue to stay in touch,” Hicks said. “It all started just by having that time together and having time to connect and really solidify that foundation and connection.”

During her time at Campus Connections, Hicks learned how to approach relationships and necessary counseling skills that helped her become the better person she wanted to be in this world.

Mentor Families

Campus Connections uses a family systems approach to create a mentoring community. Each mentor-mentee pair is nested within a small mentoring group, known as a Mentor Family, where the youth are of similar ages. This unique feature of Campus Connections allows youth to positively interact with their peers while benefiting from interactions with their primary adult mentor and the community of caring adults within their Mentor Family.

“Campus Connections is formulated for the advancement of youth of any background, any need, any ability, it’s very inclusive,” said Hicks. “It’s the perfect place for families to bring their kids and just help them through transitions and help them connect their families as a whole.”

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

Please join us in celebrating and supporting 10 years of Campus Connections!

Campus Connections is collecting donations through Ramfunder. Every gift matters.

  • $25 will help provide supplies
  • $50 will help provide dinner to youth participants
  • $100 will help provide professional mental health interventions and services

An incredible Campus Connections student mentor alumna, Caley Follmer (’15), has generously offered to provide a $5,000 matching gift to the Campus Connections 10th Anniversary campaign. Please join in and help us raise $5,000 so we can unlock this match! Read more about Caley on SOURCE.