ISU women volunteer to mentor middle school students

Brian Day

Female students from Iowa State are being paired with sixth and seventh grade students at Ames and Nevada Middle Schools to act as mentors and positive role models.

A program run through the Ames YWCA, called ISU Girls Power Mentoring Program, organizes the pairings and meetings between the ISU students and middle school students in a random and unbiased manner.

There are two separate sections of the club: the Ames section, which has 12 mentors and 12 students, and the Nevada section, which has nine mentors and nine students. No matter the situation, there will always be a one-to-one ratio between the mentors and the students.

If things do not work out between the mentor and trainee for whatever reason, the staff is more than willing to make a change, but that has not happened any time in the past, said Taylor Jensen, program coordinator of the Nevada section.

Often times, mentors are only considered to be for help in academics, but the ISU women mentors act as so much more for the middle school students, Jensen said. 

“They’re kind of acting as that big sister role,” Jensen said. “Some of these girls don’t have that female mentor in their life, so this program allows that to happen.”

The mentors meet with their students every other week to check in with them and motivate them. Then on the weeks when they do not formally meet, they just spend time together and foster their relationship outside of the required time. 

“I think middle school is a critical time where they’re very fragile, and they can easily succumb to negative peer pressure and negative circumstances,” said Vanessa McNeal, program coordinator for the Ames section. “So I think it’s that perfect time where they can have a great role model in someone older to guide them because a lot of them don’t have guidance.”

Although the program is small and relatively unknown throughout the university, it has been around for more than 10 years and is growing in numbers every year, Jensen said. 

Currently, the program is full of mentors, but they will be looking to hire students to be new mentors at the beginning of the spring semester. Anyone interested in applying can look for a post on the Student Job Board and for flyers around campus toward the start of the spring semester.

“We aim to instill confidence in our sixth and seventh grade girls that we work with, and we try to motivate them the best that we can and just be role models for them when a lot of them don’t have one,” McNeal said.