Campus Connections student mentor finds success in her career

As a low-income, first-generation student at Colorado State University, Erika Solis promised herself that she would always give back to others.

“I wanted to connect with other students who also did not have family members who went to college and share with them that it is possible to achieve anything you want in life,” she said.

Successful career

Solis graduated from Colorado State University in 2015 with a degree in human development and family studies, and is now the bilingual grief care coordinator for Judi’s House, a free-standing organization in the Metro Denver area devoted to providing research-based care to grieving children and their families.

Solis has found great success in her career.  She is the first point of contact for both English and Spanish speaking families seeking services at Judi’s House, volunteers there as a companion volunteer in the children’s group one night a week and is working towards an M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Regis University.

Campus Connections

Solis credits much of this success and confidence in her career to her involvement in CSU’s Campus Connections program in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, which will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year. Campus Connections pairs CSU students with at-risk youth referred from the local juvenile justice system, schools, human services and other providers who recognize the tremendous benefits of therapeutic mentoring for youth.

1 in 4 CSU students is First Generation. Read about Colorado State University’s mission – First Generation University Initiative.

Over the last 10 years, 87% of participating youth indicated that Campus Connections had helped them with some aspect of school improvement, such as increasing attendance, improving grades or improving their understanding of schoolwork. Students also saw improvements in their relationships with friends and family, their self-esteem and attitudes towards education. During her time as an undergraduate, Solis participated in the program as mentor for several reasons.

Passion for helping others

“First and foremost, it gave me the opportunity to fulfill my passion for helping others while being in college,” she said. “As an undergrad student, sometimes just having purely coursework can disconnect you from the reality of life and I wanted real-life interactions to keep me grounded.”

Solis also knew she had a passion for working with children, but wasn’t sure what age range would be best for her. “Campus Connections allowed me to explore that through being a mentor and mentor coach; I was able to work with youth and young adults as well,” she said.

Lastly, the program allowed her to fulfill her goal of giving back to others and helping other first generation students.

For the CSU students serving as mentors, Campus Connections is associated with 63% lower odds of dropping out of CSU in any given year and 127% higher odds of graduating. For Solis, the program helped her identify her passions and develop a strong sense of self.

Campus Connections is celebrating 10 years of transforming lives through mentorship.

Campus Connections is an award winning therapeutic mentoring program for at-risk youth and a high-impact service-learning course involving both undergraduates and clinical graduate students.

By the numbers in the first 10 years:

  • 3,000 CSU students
  • 2,300 youth mentees
  • 4 university partnerships
  • 8 awards

“Campus Connections has given me so much confidence in becoming the professional I am today,” she said. “I’ve always been very quiet and reserved and have not really seen myself as much of leader but through Campus Connections I found my voice.”

You can support the Campus Connections program by making a gift at the Campus Connections online giving page.

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