The Clark State Community College Scholars program recently expanded from Springfield City Schools into Champaign and Clark County schools. Clark State is seeking additional mentors with the program’s addition of Graham, Urbana, Tecumseh and Clark-Shawnee school districts.
The Clark State Foundation along with the school districts work together to identify eligible middle school students who will become the first in their families to earn a college degree. Upon graduation from high school, the students will be eligible for three years of college at Clark State at no cost to the students.
“This program was created to fulfill a need in the community, which is to encourage students to attend college,” said Karen Hunt, director of the Clark State Scholars program. “The mentors are a huge part of the success of the program.”
Hunt said in her time as director, she has witnessed mentors sharing their educational journeys while encouraging, supporting and inspiring their mentees to become successful academically as well as positive examples to their peers.
Fred Bartenstein, a professor at the University of Dayton, has been mentoring students in the Clark State Scholars program since the fall of 2015. He finds mentoring to be a rewarding experience; he co-mentors with Elaine Morris Roberts of Springfield.
“I like working with kids, especially first-generation college students,” he said. “I care deeply about Springfield. Co-mentoring is a good way to demonstrate teamwork.”
Bartenstein encourages others to mentor for the Clark State Scholars program. “It’s a great way to share your experience as a college graduate, or perhaps as a college parent, with kids who are not close to someone who went to college,” he said.
Clark State faculty member and alumnus Sarah Hagenbuch is in her second year as a Clark State Scholars mentor; she is also active in the local youth arts program. She believes mentoring is an opportunity to give back and see kids grow in the communities.
“It is a great community outreach opportunity that truly requires very little commitment,” she said. “Students may not otherwise have support for education. I enjoy it.”
Currently, there are 232 students enrolled in the Clark State Scholars program including 139 from Springfield City Schools, 38 from Champaign County schools, 17 from Clark County schools and 38 enrolled at Clark State.
A new class of Clark State Scholars will be inducted at 6:30 p.m. on March 3, 2020, at the Clark State Performing Arts Center. The induction will welcome 80 new students into the program.
“We need the support of mentors in order for our program to be a success,” said Toni Overholser, director of the Clark State Foundation which houses the Clark State Scholars program. “Mentors offer guidance and support to the youth we serve and are a positive influence in our communities. By sharing their time and talents, mentors help prepare our first-generation college students for success. I hope our community members will consider sharing their time and talents to improve the lives of young people and help them achieve their dream of a college degree.”
A critical component of the Clark State Scholars program is the development of a support system to encourage the young scholars to work toward a college education and to help expose them to enrichment experiences they might not otherwise have. The level of involvement of each mentor will vary according to his/her availability. However, the goal is to spend at least 30-45 minutes with the scholars every month. The goal is to make enough visits during the year to establish a relationship with the students.
To qualify, student must: be in 8th grade; have maintained a 2.0 GPA through their 7th grade year or the first quarter of their 8th grade year; family meets the income eligibility for the Free and Reduced Lunch program; and neither parent has a bachelor’s degree at the time of the application.
If interested in becoming a Clark State Scholars program mentor, please contact the Clark State Foundation at 937.328.6009.