Every child needs a role model. College students in Ames, Iowa are stepping up and making that difference in their lives here in the Ames community. Students of Iowa State University, in partnership with Cornerstone Church of Ames and their college ministry The Salt Company, are helping the teachers and spending time with the kids in Ames elementary schools during the school day.
According to Steven Greig who helps lead the mentorship program, former senior pastor of Cornerstone Church, Troy Nesbitt, suggested to teachers at Kate Mitchell Elementary School that in order to meet the needs of the growing student body, the college students involved in Cornerstone Church’s Salt Company ministry would be happy to lend a hand.
“A lot of kids come from broken homes and they just need someone to love on them.” Greig explained.
Students take time out of their busy schedules to leave campus once or twice a week for an hour or so a day to spend time with the kids doing whatever is needed of them.
The idea became a reality 6 years ago at Kate Mitchell Elementary School. College students have had a presence ever since, but their impact on the lives of those younger than them are not limited to the confines of Kate Mitchell. The program continued to expand. In the years since, thanks to positive word of mouth, Salt Company and ISU students were given the same opportunity to expand their reach to help the children of other elementary schools throughout the city.
“It started only at Kate Mitchell for about four years until last year when we expanded to Sawyer and Meeker Elementary as well. This year we’re adding Edwards, so that’s four out of five besides Fellows.” Greig said.
According to Greig, all it takes for college students to make a difference is to be willing and able. “We don’t do anything that special. Any college student who can breath and likes being around any sort of people at all can help.”
Jacob Dereus, student at ISU and Salt Company participant, is one such college student who wants to make a difference. Dereus loves spending time with kids and hopes to become a teacher. His goal in participating in the program is to hang out with the kids and let them know someone cares about them.
“I want to get involved this semester because I’ve done it the past two years and I really enjoy it. It’s fun walking into the room and all of the kids are excited that you are there. It’s something I work my class schedule around so I have time for it.”
Greig likewise mirrored the sentiment about the impact college students have on the lives of children, “We’ve all been in second grade where we’ve looked up to any sort of adult figure who just wanted to play with you and paid attention to you at all, and that’s honestly what most of these kids need. They don’t need, you know, a special calc tutor or anything. They just need someone to sit with them and be like, ‘Timmy, you should pay attention’, ‘let’s read this book”, ‘hey, kids on the playground.’”
Although the program was almost shut down for a time due to not enough students volunteering, thanks to the 180 students currently involved, the program doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. In fact, the program intends to further expand this coming spring semester with the greater involvement of the Cornerstone Church community in addition to The Salt Company who is already involved. Greig looks forward to seeing church deacons connecting with school officials to get parents involved as they continue to try to make a positive impact in the Ames community.