Western students mentor youth in need

mentor and mentee cooking together
Increasing numbers of Western State Colorado University students are volunteering with Gunnison Valley Mentors to help community youth in need.

As the only program of its type in the area, Gunnison Valley Mentors (GVM) provides youth with a volunteer mentor who serves as a friend and an advocate. Many Western students volunteer every week to ensure community youth in need get as much help and attention as possible.

GVM is an affiliate of the Partners Mentoring Association, which was created in Denver in 1968 as a response to the growing rate of juvenile delinquency and need among teenage youth. The program is now one of seven locally-run affiliates in Colorado. It has both school-based and community-based programs.

The mentors in the school-based program visit their mentees’ school for an hour every week to play and help with homework. The community-based option serves the same purpose but requires a greater commitment and allows mentors to spend more time with their mentees outside of school.

Western’s relationship with the community has always been strong and encouraged student involvement. Community-based program director Megan McKinley sees a distinct advantage in having college students as mentors.

“They provide a really good energy … the youth are always excited when they get a college-aged mentor,” she said.

Junior Exercise and Sport Science major, Cam Smith joined the mentor program when he took a class requiring community service. He has continued in the school-based program since completing his required hours.

“It's amazing to help [students] realize how much they are capable of with a little perseverance. Their excitement is contagious when they make those breakthroughs. I believe making a positive change for a child is the most valuable thing anyone can do,” Smith said.

Each mentor decides to volunteer for a variety of reasons, but they all gain skills that significantly enhance their education and experience as a Western student.


Photos by Gunnison Valley Mentors


“The mentorship program has taught me to be a better listener and to be willing and able to adapt how I help and teach children with different backgrounds,” said Sisi Sawyer, a senior Education major currently completing her teaching residency at the Crested Butte Community School.

GVM school-based program director Aubree Scarff believes the benefit of the program is greater than just helping kids in need.

“[Mentors] learn just as much from their mentee as their mentee does from them,” she said.

GVM is always looking for new student-mentors to fill their growing need and is open to any questions about the program or the process of becoming matched with a mentee. To get in contact or learn more about the program, visit: http://gunnisonmentors.com

Story by Peter Noon

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016 - 3:30pm