By Hazel Cameron, Executive Director, The 4C Coalition
This article was featured in the latest newsletter issue of the National Cares Mentoring Movement.
e are huge fans of the nationally ranked University of Washington football team. We celebrate their excellence on and off the football field. Several of the players mentored youth in our 4C Coalition group mentoring program that serves youth ages 12-17.
The program is designed to inspires critical thinking, skills development and activism. We're focused on helping youth make good decisions. A University of Washington professor, Dr. Terry Scott, suggested that her students get involved in their community by becoming mentors in our program. With communication and coordination with the athletic department the U WA Student Athlete Mentoring Program was started.
In January 2016, seven student-athletes agreed to participate. They completed our mentor training program and committed to our Tuesday evening mentoring group. As the year progressed the student mentors facilitated the discussions. Huskies linebacker, Azeem Victor led a discussion on using social media. He emphasized the importance of being mindful of what you put out on social media. Defensive back Brandon Beaver led a discussion on prosperity and financial planning with one of the 4C mentees and wide receiver Dante Pettis was always present with a point of view that engaged more discussion. Another group was led by Huskie wide receiver, John Ross, linebacker Ezekiel Turner, along with defensive back's Kevin King and JoJo Macintosh. They emphasized the importance of youth making good decisions, and to think about their actions before they act or speak.
Student mentors get college credit for mentoring, but as John Ross said
"it's not really about the class credit. I'm just interested helping kids, and in nonprofit organization for kids, in general, because that's something I would like to do some time."
The University of Washington student-athletes left a big impression with our kids. Our 12 to 17-year-old mentees were inspired. Feedback from parents was positive. Many of them reported distinct behavior changes in their children after completing the six-month program. In May the student mentors participated in a symposium at the University and discussed the program to show what it can do... and have more student-athletes sign up for it. In front of a packed audience the student-athletes talked about their experiences in the program. Professor Scott reported, "there was not a dry eye in the room."
The mentoring project has been adopted as part of the University of Washington Community Ambassador Program. Student-athletes from other sports have expressed interest in participating. Students will participate in mentoring on their off season. Some baseball players will be trained this fall, and football player will return during the winter quarter. The Student Mentor Program has been added to the curriculum.
Moving forward we are working closely with Roderick Jones, Connie So, PhD and other staff from the University of Washington Athletic Department. In order for this partnership to happen the entire athletics department signed off, and was supportive of the athletes participating in community internships. Big hats off to the Huskies football players for their success this year. We can see their excellence on the football field... and we have first-hand knowledge of their excellence off the field.