Two dozen Creighton students mentor Howard Kennedy Elementary School children every Wednesday as part of the CU President’s Scholars program.

Jacob Idra, a sophomore in the Heider College of Business, and Sam Lado, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said they approached the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, S.J., last summer with an idea for a mentorship program that would provide support for elementary students in North Omaha.

Both from the Omaha area, Idra and Lado each had mentors growing up.

“My mentor was one of the reasons I joined Creighton University,” Lado said. “He was a big part of my academic career and my development as a person. We want to provide that mentorship for our kids so they can establish that relationship with Creighton students.”

Lado said Hendrickson shared a similar vision. They began recruiting student mentors at SCSJ events, small club meetings and after mass, and the first mentoring event was on Sept. 25.

Lado, the vice president of the CUPS program, said the elementary school students were chosen based on economic needs and goals set by the school.

Each Wednesday, the children take a bus from Howard Kennedy to Creighton University at Highlander, where they meet their undergraduate mentors for snacks, games and educational activities.

The elementary school students bring goals that were set by their teachers to work on during this time, such as goals to improve reading or math skills.

“[My mentee] is eager to learn and improve her school performance,” Heider College of Business sophomore and CUPS mentor Abby Kleespie said. “She enjoys me quizzing her and especially likes quizzing me back.” 

“I would consider our relationship to be like a friendship. We are able to talk to each other about our goals, about anything that happened during the week, and we have great respect for each other.”

Creighton students who applied to be mentors were reviewed by the executive members and completed background checks and children and vulnerable adults training, as well as any extra academic training they needed.

“I believe CUPS to be so important because we have the opportunity to build relationships with these great kids while helping them to believe in themselves and realize they can achieve what they strive to accomplish,” Kleespie said. 

Once each semester, the elementary students go on an outing with their mentors. In the fall, they attended a Bluejay basketball game.

On March 25, the Howard Kennedy students will come to campus for a career day led by Idra, who is the CUPS president.

“We'll be giving the kids a tour of the dental school, working with them to see if we can show the kids some tools and stuff, just to open their minds to new avenues that they might use in their future,” Idra said.

The overall goal of this program is to show the elementary school children that there is community support for their academic and developmental success.

“The reason why we are doing this program is we want to show other students of color from where we are from that they, too, can have the opportunities that we do,” Idra said.

The relationship between the undergraduate students and their mentees is meant to be long-term. Lado said that the goal is to have the same students back each semester, and that the mentors will stay with the elementary school students over the years.  

“When I left and graduated from [my mentor program] and went on to high school, there was a disconnection from Creighton,” Idra said. “But ultimately, I think my experience early on drew me back.”

Idra and Lado are trying to show the young students that there is a place for them at Creighton.

“Down the road, we would love to see those kids in Omaha attending Creighton,” Lado said. “That's why we love those kids coming to campus, to see what Creighton has to offer.” 

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