CSU Stanislaus Mentoring Program Helping Students in Turlock

The California State University, Stanislaus Mentoring Program is one of the largest University mentoring programs in the nation. Over 100 students from CSU Stanislaus provide mentoring to over 150 students each semester in the Turlock Unified School District (TUSD).

The Program started approximately six years ago as an alternative intervention to connect severely at-risk high school students to college mentors with the main goal to increase the student’s academic expectations. When the program started six years ago, the program only consisted of 15 mentors.

CSU Stanislaus Service Learning Director Julie Fox, who has been working with the program since the founding, describes the mentors as providing a service for the community while also attaining important practice for the classroom, as many of the mentors are pursuing education degrees at the university.

Professors from CSUS have also been involved in the program, offering classes and activities for local elementary schools. Some of these professors include Dr. Mark Grobner, who conducts a Tadpole Life Cycle Project at Crowell Elementary, Julien Elementary, Wakefield Elementary, and Walnut Elementary Schools; Dr. Stone and Dr. Phillips, who conduct a program entitled ‘Chemistry in the Classroom’; Dr. Mary Borba’s ‘Reading in the Classroom’ program; and Dr. Tim Helfer, who conducts a Criminal Justice course entitled Juvenile Justice, Pathways to Success.

Dr. Tim Helfer has had approximately 32 years experience in Juvenile Justice, and firmly believes in the importance of having a mentor.

“With the economy being bad, more families are seeing both parents having to work and not having the time to be at home,” stated Dr. Helfer. “With more packed classrooms, there’s also less teacher attention available to individual students.”

Dr. Helfer described many of the teenagers and young adults that the mentors work with just need someone to talk to, to offer emotional support as well as tutoring help.

“Tutoring is a component of the Criminal Justice mentoring program, but it’s not the primary focus,” explained Dr. Helfer. “The main focus is to ‘Give-a-Damn’ about these kids and show concern for our youth.”

The Criminal Justice mentoring program currently has four mentors from CSU Stanislaus, all who are Criminal Justice majors at the university.

One of the mentors, Matthew Wallace, a senior at CSU Stanislaus shared his experience as a mentor.

“I feel this program is vital to the success of many students,” said Wallace. “See, I’m a former juvenile delinquent, so I can relate to a lot of these kids. For the two years I’ve been mentoring, I’ve seen a lot of progress.”

Wallace described working with a student from the Turlock School District who has received several suspensions, was lacking in attendance, and was on the brink of expulsion. Since Wallace has been working with the student, however, the student has not missed one day of school, brought up his grades, and has not been in any trouble at school.

“I’m a firm believer that he just needed someone to talk to, someone who he could voice his opinions to,” said Wallace.

“I’m really appreciative for this program to be in existence because I stand here as a 31-year old college student, and with being in detention centers when I was young, I didn’t have this opportunity. And I feel, maybe if I did, things would’ve ended up a little different or at least a little sooner,” Wallace shared. “We’re here not only to help the students currently, but we’re here to be a life long friend and mentor to these children.”

Turlock School Board Trustee Dr. Harinder Grewal showed strong support for the program and thanked the CSU Stanislaus mentors for their work at the April 17th TUSD Board Meeting.

“This program is the best way to help someone else,” stated Dr. Grewal. “Thank you for your time and all the hours you volunteer to make a difference.”

School Board Trustee Frank Lima also thanked the mentors present at the Board Meeting, and noted the importance of the collaboration between the School District and the University.

“There is no way our district could’ve done this, or had this program, without the mentors and the university,” stated Lima. “Thank you for devoting yourselves to the program and our students.”

The CSU Stanislaus Office of Service Learning provided over 46,000 volunteer hours of service to the community in the past year, the equivalent of over $966,000 in estimated contributions through time devoted to service activities in the region.

To learn more about the CSU Stanislaus Mentoring Program, or the Office of Service Learning, please visit their website at http://www.csustan.edu/ServiceLearning/.

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