In 1993, Jamey Wolverton was a senior at Whitman College and had a passion for academic excellence as well as community service. He designed a program that matched 23 at-risk elementary school children in the third, fourth and fifth grades with Whitman College students who served as their mentors. The program was designed to discover if an ongoing mentoring relationship would positively affect attendance rates, academic performance, behavior and self-esteem for the children.
When Wolverton graduated from Whitman College in May 1994, he was asked by the College President to coordinate a newly created office called the Center for Community Service. It was at this time that the Mentors Program became officially affiliated with Whitman College. In the past eight years, the program has continued to grow, while remaining true to its original purpose.
When the Mentors Program started, students mentored in one local elementary school. Today, the Whitman Mentors Program is actively involved in all six public schools located in Walla Walla, Wash. Transportation is provided so that elementary schools located some distance from Whitman College can also benefit from this program. In the beginning, there were 23 students serving as mentors. Today, more than 100 Whitman students participate as mentors each year.
Originally, one person easily handled all the logistics, as there were a limited number of elementary school children and mentors participating in the program. Today, there are two college students who serve as Center for Community Service Interns that invest 17 hours per week coordinating all aspects of the program. They advertise for mentors, host informational meetings, attend staff meetings at the local schools to keep teachers up-to date, select the mentors, train the mentors, interview all the elementary school children participating in the program, match the elementary school children with a mentor, communicate with parents, arrange transportation, handle all aspects of the evaluation process and deal with any issues or concerns.
Though the program has grown, the most fundamental aspects of the program have not changed; and the program is still effectively meeting the needs of local school children. Its mission remains that college students reach out to local elementary school children and give them hope for their future. While attending college, it is very easy to be self-focused and forget about the community in which you live. The Mentors Program engages college students to meet the community children’s needs of encouragement, companionship and tutoring.