Junior wins national youth mentoring award

Junior Chelsea Dunleavy has won the College Mentors for Kids national Chapter Leader of the Year award in recognition of her outstanding leadership in the mentoring program that matches Valpo students with local elementary school children.

Dunleavy helped launch Valpo's College Mentors for Kids chapter her freshman year, and as president during the past academic year led the program pairing 40 Valpo students with local children. The mentoring relationships that students develop with children aim to help youth succeed in school and eventually to pursue a college education.

"I feel honored to have had the opportunity to impact the lives of so many young individuals and their families," said Dunleavy, an elementary education major from Valparaiso. "Seeing the little buddies come off the bus and greet their big buddies each week was an amazing visual of what it looks like to have 80 people who know that they can follow their dreams and are excited to have something to look forward to. I believe that the little buddies gave just as much to all of us college students as we gave to them."

The Chapter Leader of the Year honor is awarded based on the leader's commitment to strengthening their chapter, willingness to go above and beyond, and ability to inspire those around them.

Dunleavy says it has been rewarding to observe the 'little buddies' in Valpo's program grow to enjoy school more during the past three years.

"Seeing children that are excited and happy really creates a chain reaction with all the people they come in contact with," said Dunleavy. "Being involved in College Mentors has helped me to follow my own dream of teaching children by gaining experience working with a variety of children and learning how to respond in all sorts of situations."

Activities for the children have included visiting Valpo's weather laboratory and playing the role of a television weather person in the campus weather studio, seeing how nurses take care of people during a trip to Valpo's College of Nursing, and learning about other cultures from students in Valpo's German, Spanish and Japanese clubs.

Those activities and others, Dunleavy says, help children gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of culture and diversity, community service and higher education.

According to an Indiana-wide College Mentors for Kids survey, the program is having a significant impact on children, with 95 percent of parents reporting their child was more interested in attending college, 72 percent of teachers saying children in the program displayed improved self-esteem and 59 percent of teachers saying children displayed improved reading skills.

More information on the program can be found online at http://www.collegementors.org.