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The buddy system

Isn’t it great when someone has your back?

Pile on! Some of the best times you’ll have at UIndy may be outside the classroom (shocking, right?), including service projects on campus or on the other side of the world. Plan to join the fun!

“I like my big buddy’s shoes,” one little buddy says with a laugh. “And playing games.”

Granted, that UIndy student’s cool shoes aren’t officially a highlight of the College Mentors for Kids program. But these elementary school kids are affected by interacting with the college students each week—even if in unexpected ways.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday, UIndy students wait on the steps of Esch Hall for a bus full of elementary students (their “little buddies”) to arrive to start an afternoon full of laughing, learning, and fun.

Role models

College Mentors for Kids is a Midwest organization that matches disadvantaged youths with local college students to help promote higher education opportunities and healthy social choices for children.

College Mentors for KidsCMFK does this by focusing on culture and diversity, community service, higher education, and economics. And UIndy’s award-winning chapter is one of the best at it.

“It isn’t always easy to incorporate each of these goals into activities, but we get pretty creative,” says president Lynsey Johnson.

So what is an afternoon with their little buddies like?

“The day usually starts with a snack and some catch-up time between the big and little buddies before starting the activity for the day, which could be anything from working in the physical therapy clinics to learning about belly dancing from our Indian student organization.

“Those are two of the little buddies’ favorite activities, probably because they are so hands-on and out of the ordinary,” Lynsey says.

Homework help

Help with homework is offered, too. “The big buddies aren’t old like teachers, so they are smarter,” one little buddy observes. (OK, the rationale may not make sense, but there’s a compliment in there somewhere.)

Ask UIndy students why they’re participating in the program, and each seems to have a different reason for working with the children.

Kat Allen has been in CMFK for four years. She’s enjoyed watching the program grow.

“It is so touching to see kids with rough home lives open up to the big buddies and take advantage of all the activities and learning experiences offered here.

“It is just cool to be able to be that person in their life who cares about them and talks with them, because you don’t really know if they have a person like that once they leave our campus and go home,” Lynsey says.

“It’s so frustrating sometimes trying to coordinate everything, but once the kids are on campus it is so worthwhile!”

UIndy has 95 students and 90 elementary students participating in the program each week, making UIndy one of the largest CMFK campuses in the region.

The long haul

“Each little buddy is paired with a big buddy for the entire semester,” Lynsey explains, “and one of the coolest things about the program is that you can actually stay with your little buddy for multiple semesters, and even years, as long as both continue with the program. Most of these kids have never been on a college campus before,” she continues, “and most don’t even know college students.

“So our main goal,” Lynsey says, “is to make sure they feel comfortable on campus and really open up to the possibility of being a college student themselves some day.”

—Candi Witzigreuter ’12

‘The big buddies aren’t old like teachers, so they are smarter’