Campus Connections kicks off partnership abroad

The CSU Department of Human Development and Family Studies’ youth mentoring program, Campus Connections, has traveled internationally to New Zealand, where the University of Auckland has officially launched it in their community.

The accomplishment has opened many doors for Campus Connections, while also bringing together different communities. Three HDFS faculty members — Jen Krafchick, Toni Zimmerman and Shelley Haddock — had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand this summer to help launch the program.

Group photo of mentors and professors
University of Auckland mentors and professors

Campus Connections

Campus Connections is a service-learning course and mentoring program that allows students from any major to enroll and serve as mentors for youth from the community. The program has a proven track record of improving student retention and academic achievement among youth as well as CSU students.

In the multidisciplinary service-learning class (HDFS 470 A-C), students work one-on-one with youth who are in need of an extra support system. The university students interact with 11- to 18-year-olds and their families by participating in pro-social activities, group dinners, school support and more.

The program originally started at Colorado State University in 2010 to fulfill a need for a mentoring program in the juvenile justice system. Now the program has reached its eighth year and has worked with youth referred by the local juvenile justice system, human service agencies, local schools and other community agencies.

Shelley, Toni, and Jen
Haddock, Zimmerman, and Krafchick in New Zealand

The model was so successful that CSU has been able to license it so that it can be replicated at additional locations. Since 2010, Campus Connections has expanded to other universities in Colorado and now, New Zealand.

“The real excitement of Campus Connections expanding to more universities and now abroad is that so many people benefit,” Zimmerman said. “University undergraduate students benefit from the experience of mentoring, graduate students from various counseling disciplines benefit from using their therapy skills in this dynamic setting, and vulnerable youth and their families benefit from therapeutic mentoring and being welcomed onto a campus.”

Going international

In 2014, the CSU Campus Connections program was sought out by an academic program at the University of Auckland. While on her sabbatical, University of Auckland Senior Lecturer Pat Bullen of education and social work made it her mission to find a supportive mentoring program that she could envision at the University of Auckland.

After visiting many schools in North America, Bullen found Campus Connections and immediately knew it was the program for the community in Auckland.

“I was astounded and inspired by the program’s ability to positively impact underserved youth by uniquely combining 50 hours of intensive one-to-one mentoring, with prosocial group-based activities and on-site therapy,” Bullen said.

While adopting the program, faculty at the University of Auckland decided that there were some adaptations they needed to make to fit in with New Zealand’s commitment to a bicultural country. Although everything about Campus Connections stayed the same, they altered the program to better fit with the culture by changing some language aspects and making additional modifications to honor Maori and Pasifika cultures represented in the program.

After intensive training and observation of the program, Bullen and her colleague, who is also a senior lecturer in education and social work, Kelsey Deane, felt that the program was ready to be adapted into the University of Auckland and the community.

“In 2015, Toni visited the University of Auckland as a Distinguished Visitor, inspiring Kelsey Deane and I to seek and secure significant funding to bring the program to Aotearoa, New Zealand,” Bullen explained. “We are honored and delighted to be a Campus Connections and CSU partner.”

Mentor group sitting in circle
Post lab debriefing with student

Implementing the program

In August, Zimmerman, Krafchick and Haddock traveled to New Zealand for the first two weeks that the program was being implemented.

There, they got the opportunity to learn a little about the Auckland community while also getting to meet the first mentors and mentees in the program.

“One of the key highlights of my career was having the opportunity to observe a culturally modified Campus Connections being offered by the University of Auckland,” Haddock said. “As part of this cultural modification, Campus Connections New Zealand opened with a traditional Maori welcoming ceremony and feast, which was such a beautiful and moving way to welcome youth into the program on the first day.”

After taking part in the traditional welcoming ceremony, the faculty members were thrilled to see their program unveiled in such a friendly community.

“We are very excited to have such incredible partners who are able to take this program and implement it in their communities to benefit students and youth,” said Krafchick, Campus Connections co-director and HDFS faculty member. “We’re excited for future mutually collaborative benefits with this community.”

Future of the program

Now that the program has been implemented at different universities, Campus Connections faculty are excited to see what the future holds for the program.

“As the program goes to different campuses, having fresh eyes overseeing it, we can get additional input and improve our program even further,” Krafchick said. “We would love to expand to even more campuses to see our program help bring communities together.”

Campus Connections is part of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.