The Ohio State University at Marion


Local college and elementary students continue building bonds during Covid19

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

A group of student participants in Ohio State Marion’s Pride and Life Skills mentoring program (PALS) have extended their online mentoring through the summer months because of the impact on, not only the young mentees in the program, but the personal and professional growth the college students have experienced as part of the program.

Program participants are engaged in mentoring young people through the Boys & Girls Club of Marion County, George Washington Elementary and Ridgedale Elementary Schools.

A group of 14 students began mentoring spring semester 2020 as part of 2 independent study courses: Psychology 3193.01, taught by Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Nikole Patson and English 5193, taught by Associate Professor of English, Dr. Ben McCorkle.

According to Patson, as many as 5 of the student mentors in the program have dedicated themselves to continued meetings with their mentees beyond the completion of the course and through summer.

“I think this shows not only how committed our students are to the program, but also the deep connection the mentor and mentees established over the first half of the semester,” Patson said.

“This is consistently true with our PALS mentors: They find that meeting with their mentee is their favorite part of their week,” she said.

Health Sciences major Sydney Ferguson of Carey, Ohio who mentors a child through Boys & Girls Club of Marion County shared that she has gained so much from mentoring a child from both a personal and professional standpoint.

“When mentoring,” said Ferguson, “I personally gain joy and satisfaction as I know that I am not only positively impacting a child’s life, but mine as well.

“Professionally, mentoring has taught me how to be creative, how to overcome obstacles (such as virtual mentoring), and how to gain trust from a child,” she added.

“Most of our mentors come back for multiple semesters,” Patson said, “and many continue even after they can no longer earn more credit.”

Patson shared that when the governor closed all of the schools, the program had no choice but to drop the in-person mentoring requirement for PALS mentors.

Initially, “we asked our mentors to write a letter to their mentee in lieu of visiting with them,” explained Patson. “However, since that time Marion Mentors has set up a virtual mentoring program, several of our students have begun meeting virtually with their mentees.” she said

Patson commented that her students confidence seems to improve while taking part in the program.

“I think this is because of the important leadership skills students gain through their engagement with PALS, she said. “Mentoring is by no means an easy thing to do, said Patson. “Mentors learn early on about accountability: Their mentees expect them to show up for their meeting.”

Mentors may have many ideas about how to use their meeting times, Patson said, but the mentees also have ideas about the use of that time.

“Mentors have to balance their own ideas about what mentoring should look like with what their mentee thinks mentoring should look like. This requires both patience and humility.

Because many of the mentees in the program face a number of challenges that our mentors didn't face as children, the program opens mentor’s eyes to inequality and how life circumstances can influence access to opportunity, said Patson.

“Mentoring has really opened my eyes to what others go through and how important it is for children to have trusting relationships with adults,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson mentors a young boy, who she shared has been very shy ever since their first session, but said she has also seen breakthroughs in terms of strengthening trust between herself and her mentee.

“Building a relationship with him has challenged me,” said Ferguson. “I have learned that the best way to communicate is to ask him open-ended questions about things he is interested in.”

“What I have learned is that playing board games, drawing, or answering trivia is what our sessions consist of because they provide him with the opportunity to express himself without always using words,” said Ferguson.

“Over time, he has opened up to me and gained a little more trust,” she added.

“It was really important for me to continue mentoring after the semester was over because my mentee had made it a goal of ours to keep playing games and having fun all throughout the summer,” said Ferguson.

“After hearing this,” she explained, “I knew how important it was for me to continue being there for him as our mentoring sessions were making a difference on his life.”

Ferguson personally plans to continue mentoring throughout the summer until she moves to the Columbus campus to complete her degree, where she hopes to find another student to mentor.

“Although our relationship is different than I expected it would be, it is one reason why I want to continue mentoring him because he never fails to make me smile,” Ferguson said.

Students with questions or that are interested in being part of the PALS program this autumn semester are encouraged to contact Nikole Patson at patson.3@osu.edu or Ben McCorkle at mccorkle.12@osu.edu. Visit us on the web at: https://osumarion.osu.edu/academics/pals.html.