Although some Stanley Hupfeld Academy students are already paired with a mentor for the school year, a lack of volunteers means 100 of their peers are still waiting for the same opportunity.
Oklahoma Christian University has partnered with Integris Health’s Positive Directions Mentoring Program for the past 20 years. The program is designed to allow individuals from Oklahoma City, OK to invest in the lives of the city’s children.
Stanley Hupfeld Academy Principal Ruthie Rayner said the partnership has been successful over the years, and has grown and changed as time has gone by. She said it is a great way for college students to share their knowledge with a younger generation to enrich their lives.
“It’s been a really great tie with the college,” Rayner said. “Before I was principal, that was already established. It’s been neat to see it grow. I think it’s maybe stronger than when I first started here, but it’s been a 20-year commitment.”
Director Tobi Campbell said students who attend Stanley Hupfeld Academy generally come from single-parent homes, foster care situations or caregivers who spend the majority of their time working more than one job. She said most of the students need stability and support as well as academic help.
“The goal really was two-fold,” Campbell said. “Primarily to build a relationship and have a one-on-one caring adult in every child’s life that was in the program, because so many of them don’t have anybody that gives them that one-on-one time.”
Junior Paige Wilson said she has mentored the same elementary school student for two years—a student she met while helping with an event during Earn Your Wings at the beginning of Oklahoma Christian’s school year. She said it is a blessing to get off campus and serve others in the community.
“It’s not only beneficial for those kids, but as a mentor you get so much out of it yourself,” Wilson said. “I just find so much joy through spending time with [my student]. Also, I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned how valuable time is. Just one measly hour of your week, taking time to just spend with some of these kids that come from very low-income families and from families that don’t really have parents that are involved.”
According to Campbell, individuals who wish to mentor a student must commit to spending one hour a week at Stanley Hupfeld Academy with the goal of increasing academic success as well as creating and strengthening friendships.
“That brings a lot of benefits to the child and we’ve proven that time and time again, year after year,” Campbell said. “Their attendance rates improve, their behavioral issues improve, they like school more, they look forward to those mentor visits more than maybe anything else in school sometimes. Their horizons are broadened through their mentors.”
Rayner said some Oklahoma Christian students return year after year to mentor the same student. She said there are alternative options for individuals who would like to serve as mentors, but are unable to give up an hour of their time every week. Rayner said college students could consider team mentoring, which means two or more people take turns visiting the elementary school.
“We match all of our kids from kindergarten through fifth, so I think that’s an important aspect too,” Rayner said. “Everyone benefits from it. Everybody can use a mentor. It’s just finding them is a challenge.”
Campbell said there are several other schools and organizations in the Oklahoma City, OK area, which send individuals to mentor Stanley Hupfeld Academy students. However, she said Oklahoma Christian has the largest number of individuals involved in the program. Despite the large number of college students who have signed up to be mentors, Campbell said Stanley Hupfeld Academy still lacks about 100 mentors for the remaining students.
“It does break our hearts to be half-way through the school year, which we are, and so many of our kids still don’t have mentors,” Campbell said. “It’s tough on them to see the kids who do, and they just wait and wait and wait and it’s hard. We’ve had to reach out more to the community to get as many mentors, and Oklahoma Christian’s been huge in helping us be able to do that.”
Wilson said she would encourage other people to volunteer as mentors, because the elementary students share so much joy. She said a lot of the kids come from different cultures and backgrounds than most of the students at Oklahoma Christian, and simply need a support system they can rely on.
“As Christians, we are called to treat others as though they bear the image of God,” Wilson said. “It’s just a great experience to have an opportunity to treat others like God wants us to treat others and just being able to be a servant. Just having that hour a week shows them that they have somebody that’s praying for them, and cares for them, and wants them to do well and is there to support them.”