CSU brings Campus Connections mentoring program to New Zealand

Colorado State University’s Campus Connections, formerly called Campus Corps, is on its way to the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

Colorado State University student Colin Harris (brown long sleeve shirt), mentor to Nick Kucharski a Fort Collins High School Sophmore , February 3, 2016.
Colorado State University student Colin Harris, left, was a Campus Connections mentor to Nick Kucharski, a Fort Collins High School sophomore.

Campus Connections, a youth mentoring program in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, pairs CSU students one-on-one with at-risk youth ages 11-18. The program was started through a grant in 2009 by Toni Zimmerman and Shelley Haddock, faculty members in the Marriage and Family Therapy program. Studies have shown positive results for both the at-risk youth in the program, as well as for the CSU student mentors.

The growth and success of CSU’s Campus Connections has led the Campus Connections Leadership team – Haddock, Zimmerman, Jen Krafchick, McKenzie Miller, Lindsey Weiler and Lise Youngblade – to work with CSU Ventures to license the program to be offered on other campuses. Initially, the program branched off from CSU to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, where it continues to run successfully.

Interest from abroad

In 2014, University of Auckland’s Pat Bullen received the Vodafone World of Difference Fellowship, allowing her to further develop her expertise in youth mentoring and service-learning. Bullen took the opportunity to examine a myriad of mentoring programs around the world and took special interest in CSU’s Campus Connections.

“During my World of Difference year, I examined many youth mentoring programs and Campus Connections certainly stood out,” said Bullen.

She says Campus Connections Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand) will help fill the gap in service provision for high-risk youth. Campus Connections’ compelling positive results are what drew Bullen’s attention.

Bullen was able to bring Campus Connections to the University of Auckland through a $220,000 grant from the Vodafone NZ Foundation. The grant will support their work to develop a culturally based version of Campus Connections for New Zealand. While a visiting scholar in New Zealand, Zimmerman was invited to present the program at the New Zealand Parliament, which matched Bullen’s grant to help bring Campus Connections Aotearoa to life.

Like CSU’s Campus Connections, the mentoring program will offer mentees therapy, a structured community and a greater connection to the campus. At the same time, Campus Connections Aotearoa will provide opportunities for students studying counseling, social work and/or youth work to experience youth mentoring, case management, transition support and counseling experiences.

Distinctive elements

Campus Connections is unique in that it has aspects that overcome many problems with traditional mentoring programs. “Being a mentor is generally a big commitment and there is often an extensive wait list for mentees,” said Zimmerman. “And often times mentors are not prepared to encounter certain mental health matters that may arise with their mentees.”

Campus Connections addresses these problems by allowing mentors to participate in the upper-division, three-credit service-learning course and providing proper training and debriefing after each mentoring session. The program not only ensures mentors are well-prepared, but takes time and care when pairing mentors and mentees to ensure the pairs stick together. Pairs are then matched in mentor families with three other pairs in a similar age range to give a broader sense of community and support.

In collaboration with the Marriage and Family Therapy graduate program, CSU’s Campus Connections is able to offer on-site therapy. CSU mentees also engage in structured activities such as walks, tutoring, family dinners and prosocial activities with their mentor pairs and mentor families.

To learn more, refer youth or get involved visit CSU’s Campus Connections online.