Student mentors impact children

By NAOMI BERUMEN | Staff writer

The psychology department hosted ten eighth grade girls from Yellowstone Academy Nov. 12 to see the campus and experience college life. Their student mentors, who have been working with them since the beginning of the school year, accompanied them on the tour of the University.

Yellowstone Academy, a private school, educates children from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.

Dr. Renata Nero, professor of psychology, said the school offers a nurturing and enriching environment for what is perhaps one of the poorest areas of Houston.

As a course requirement, psychology majors must decide between a field placement or working on a project. The undergraduate seniors who decide to go through the field placement, which is set up to help them find career options within their major, go through a round of interviews.

The principal and counselors from Yellowstone hire those they think possess the correct skills to mentor the eighth grade girls, and the field placement acts as an internship for University students.

The University started working with Yellowstone Academy last year, initially for graduate students. Undergraduate students were able to get involved in the University’s second year working with Yellowstone.

Each student gets assigned an average of two eighth grade girls from Yellowstone and spends one-on-one time with them. Senior Chelsea Wood, one of the mentors, said she has been able to impact and influence the girls positively.

“They’ve grown academically and behaviorally,” Wood said. “Their conduct has improved, and it is visible in their work.”

She added that she not only has strengthened her relationship with the girls, but also gotten closer to her fellow mentors, which has been a rewarding experience.

The purpose of the mentors is to help the Yellowstone students complete their high school applications and prepare them for future education.

Nero said the main focus of bringing the girls to the University was for the girls to envision a life beyond where they currently stand academically and financially.

“We wanted them to be exposed to college life and stem the idea that they’ll be in college,” Nero said. “We have witnessed a change in their maturity and in their perspective of seeing themselves in college.”

The girls who attend Yellowstone Academy and work with mentors, like eighth grader Tajanae Sorrell, see the difference in themselves and strive to do better.

“It made me realize how much I had to change before I got to high school,” Sorrell said. “And beyond that, how much I have to offer.”

As intended from the program, eighth grader Brittany Scott, said the program has not only helped her academically, but also emotionally.

“The mentors really help us, and they are fun,” Scott said. “We can express our feelings and they take their time out for us.”

She added that she has realized she can do so much more than she thought she could, and it only takes effort and time to do it.

Wood said the program has been a positive experience. She plans to continue next year, to gain more experience and to further better herself and the girls at the Academy.