Social Work students serve as youth mentors at Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County

Jaqueline Serrano
Jaqueline Serrano standing in front of the Boys and Girls Club.

Making a positive impact in peoples’ lives is what students in the School of Social Work at Colorado State University do best. This spring semester, four students completed their sophomore practicum at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County, where they were matched with a mentee and met with them once a week. The social work student mentors helped provide guidance and advice to the kids during their time together.

All students are required to complete this practicum early on in CSU’s social work program. The time commitment is 10 hours per semester and is offered in both the spring and fall. This practicum is designed to help give students the basic skills a social worker needs, as well as finding out if this is a career they wish to pursue.

“Students are able to practice developing and maintaining relationships, engaging children in a relationship or conversation, and gain social work interviewing and listening skills,” said Brenda Miles, the social work undergraduate program director. “Students also gain an introduction to professional behavior and communication with an agency, introduction to documentation through written logs, and a beginning familiarity with group processes in the agency seminar group that meets weekly.”

Getting involved in the field of social work

Alana Giles standing in front of the Boys and Girls Club.
Alana Giles standing in front of the Boys and Girls Club.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County is a national non-profit organization with chapters throughout the country. The organization works with at-risk kids and teenagers, providing after school programs with one-on-one tutoring and mentoring.

CSU student mentors and their mentees at the Boys & Girls Club of Larimer County build a relationship during the semester through their weekly meetings, as they talk about issues or questions about school, life, and anything else.

“I have learned so much from this experience, it has provided me a space to practice the skills that I am learning in my courses, while also allowing me to make great connections within their community,” said Alana Giles, a sophomore social work student. “At the beginning, I had no idea how to react and approach specific issues, but through this field placement, I have learned how to react quickly and efficiently to a situation that my mentee presented. I also learned how important it is to build real, authentic connections with your clients/mentee.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the mentors were sometimes unable to meet with their mentees in person or online because of exposures, lockdowns, and being ill. In spite of the challenges, the program was valuable for students.

“The collaboration between CSU and The Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County is an integral part of our mentorship program,” said Christine Cunningham, a clinical social worker at the Boys and Girls Club. “COVID showed us how important connections are for our young people.  The mentors were committed to adjusting to local health department regulations and Boys & Girls Clubs standards while being present for their mentors. We sincerely appreciate this partnership.”

Making an impact at the Boys and Girls Club

While interning with Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County, the social work students not only help mentor kids and teens, they are able to make a positive impact in their mentee’s life.

“I think that this opportunity allowed me the chance to be the impact that some of these kids really need,” said Giles. “Many of the kids at the club have already been through some trauma and being able to go to there and give them support, guidance, and love is extremely important to me. Having an older mentor that can guide them through unfamiliar territory might lighten the load for them. I also enjoy being someone that they feel like they can talk to about their issues, after establishing rapport between us, these kids were vulnerable with me. That is something that I am very grateful for because it is not easy, even for adults.”

The School of Social Work is a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.