There is a small group of students on Clarke’s campus who participate in a program that is not widely known by other students. This program, “Connect and Serve,” began in the spring semester of 2016, and consists of Clarke students partnered with students just across the street at Dubuque Senior High School. These Clarke students mentor the Senior High School students through a program adapted from the University of Minnesota’s Check and Connect program which works to improve the graduation rates among high school students.
This semester, eight Clarke University mentors were each paired with at least one Dubuque Senior High School student and met weekly with their mentees. We developed academic goals to improve grades through academic supports, improved behavior at school, improved the students’ attitudes towards academics. Of these eight Clarke students, four are volunteers and the other four are in the “Connect and Serve” course instructed by Clarke Sociology Professor Rachel Daack. This one-credit hour course meets once a week to discuss each mentee’s progress in the program and to provide support and ideas that can improve the mentoring experience and outcomes of the high school student mentees. Clarke students also explore social research and participate in community organizations with goals similar to Connect and Serve.
Clarke University hosted a visit event on campus this spring semester for the Senior High mentees. The student mentees ate lunch in the cafeteria with their mentors, toured campus, and participated in a Q & A with Clarke mentors about college life. The high school students thoroughly enjoyed the unlimited lunch buffet in Clarke’s dining hall (especially the ice cream sundae bar), the opportunity to see a dorm room, and hearing from their college mentors about what college life is like in comparison to high school. Many of the student mentees left campus with new considerations of attending college after high school and programs they may be interested in participating in. Overall, the event successfully opened the student mentees’ eyes to life beyond high school, which has in turn motivated the students to do well in school in order to attend college after graduation. The mentoring program will continue into next year as new mentors are being recruited in order to grow the program.
By: Caroline Herrig