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Innovative New Course Offered to Help High School Graduation Rates

May 21, 2014
The Youth Mentorship Experience is a multidisciplinary service learning course at Oregon Tech where undergraduate students serve as mentors to at-risk youth.
The proposed Oregon Institute of Technology’s “Youth Mentorship” course promises to advance Oregon Tech’s mission and core values while also drawing students and esteem to the university. Modeled on the service learning course called Campus Corps at Colorado State University, the program at Oregon Tech would be only the second one of its kind in the nation.
The model was introduced to Klamath Falls by Debbie Vought, Executive Director of Citizens for Safe Schools, after attending the 2013 Annual Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring (SIYM) at Portland State University. The model resonated as something that could profoundly improve outcomes for youth in Klamath County while simultaneously meeting a host of other needs for Oregon Tech students and the community at large.
The program consists of three¸ three-unit classes sequenced over an academic year. College students in good standing from any major may apply for the upper division social science credit. These Oregon Tech student mentors will be matched one-to-one with a high school freshman for the year. Matches meet once a week for a structured¸ three-hour enrichment experience. For the first half hour matches engage in a one-on-one “walk and talk” exploring the Oregon Tech campus and getting to know one another. Then they spend time on homework¸ goal setting, and time management skills. A family style dinner and an hour of social skill building activities complete the evening. To enhance the social and academic support pieces of the program¸ each match will be nested within a mentoring family: a group of three other matches with whom they will be encouraged to bond and from whom they may receive additional support.
Having designed and implemented mentoring programs since 1999¸ Citizens for Safe Schools (CFSS) will handle all aspects of recruiting¸ training, and monitoring the matches. CFSS will also act as the community liaison between youth serving agencies and schools¸ connect high school youth and their families to outside resources, and help Oregon Tech mentors to problem solve and access networks needed to support their mentee. Applied Psychology Program Director Alishia Huntoon¸ PhD¸ will be lead instructor for the Oregon Tech course and develop the curriculum related to understanding youth and family systems¸ adolescent psychology¸ student motivation¸ delinquency prevention, and resiliency. Both CFSS and Oregon Tech will collaborate with community and national partners on research to advance and report on their findings.
When Dr. Huntoon heard about Campus Corps and the possibility of replicating something similar at Oregon Tech¸ she agreed it had promise for meeting both her program’s learning objectives and for meeting broader objectives within the university. “I’m eager for Oregon Tech students to be directly involved with a project that exemplifies what our university is about – applied experiences in an intimate, hands-on learning environment,” said Dr. Huntoon. “They will be building and strengthening skills employers’ desire, growing in a socially positive way and contributing directly to improving the welfare of the Klamath community.”
The course, which will start in the Fall of 2014, is enthusiastically anticipated by Oregon Tech students. Brenda Odesha¸ one of the first to enroll in the course¸ remarked¸ “I am excited to have the opportunity to not only gain additional experience in working with teenagers, but to have a positive impact in our community!”
Initial funding for the project comes from an Oregon Department of Education grant. Program outcomes will focus on 
  • Exposing underserved¸ underrepresented and underachieving high school youth to the possibilities and benefits of college life
  • Helping these youth attain access to more positive role-models and “social capital”
  • Supporting youth in achieving better attendance, behavior and grades
To learn more about this program, contact Dr. Alishia Huntoon at 541-885-1673 or Alishia.huntoon@oit.edu.
About Oregon Tech
Founded in Klamath Falls in 1947, Oregon Institute of Technology is one of seven universities in the Oregon University System, and the only public institute of technology in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon Tech provides degree programs in engineering and health technologies, management, communication, and applied sciences that prepare students to be effective participants in their professional, public, and international communities through hands-on learning. Oregon Tech has a full-service, residential campus in Klamath Falls and an urban, industry-focused campus in Wilsonville. Visit www.oit.edu to learn more about Oregon Institute of Technology.
About Citizens for Safe Schools
It is our mission to create a safe and drug free community where all children, especially those at risk for delinquency, academic failure or victimization have opportunities to build resiliency and character and all adults feel empowered to help them: our primary activities include one-to-one mentoring and after school enrichment programs for youth; a CHARACTER COUNTS Campaign of providing resources for violence prevention to educators and the community; and proactive partnerships with like-minded entities such as the Southern Oregon Meth Project and Healthy/Active Klamath to leverage impact and maximize the use of resources for achieving our goals.
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