Campus Corps program launched at Colorado State University Aims to Help Local Youth

Local at-risk youth involved in the Center for Family Outreach in Fort Collins will get an opportunity to be mentored by Colorado State University students in an effort to increase school retention, promote positive behaviors, encourage youth to consider going to college and decrease the likelihood that youth will engage in negative behaviors.

The program, being launched with a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service, also provides college students with a six-credit, two-semester class to build successful youth mentoring skills through a service-learning course called Campus Corps. Funded with a $500,000 grant, the new program aims to get college students engaged in service in their community while helping local youth.

“Campus Corps strives to reduce recidivism rates for first-time youth offenders 10-18 years old,” said Toni Zimmerman, a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies who is one of two faculty members heading up the grant. “It will provide opportunities and training for both youth and CSU students who want to become more skilled, civically engaged human service professionals and community leaders.”

The program will couple 50 at-risk youth with 50 CSU upperclass students for the spring semester. The youth who are selected for the program will be those who are in trouble with the legal system for the first time for lower-level incidents. The youth will spend four hours once a week with their mentor for individual tutoring, group meals, exercise and wellness and positive enrichment activities which will be planned and implemented by the CSU students and based on youth needs and interests. The program also will work to develop leadership skills and promote civic engagement in the at-risk youth.

As youth graduate from the Campus Corps program, the CSU students will be assigned another youth to mentor. The program for CSU students is open to human development and family studies, psychology, health and exercise science and Spanish majors.

“One of the most pressing issues facing Larimer County is a scarcity of services available to youth who are first-time offenders in the judicial system,” said Shelley Haddock, also a professor in human development and family studies and a leader in the project. “A significant service deficit existed before the current economic downturn, but has greatly worsened in the past year. In the long-term, this can end up costing the community more; research shows that well-designed early intervention programs can successfully divert first-time youth offenders from committing more crimes. In terms of CSU students, the program is designed to prepare future community leaders and professionals to apply what they learn through academia, solve problems with creativity and compassionately understand complex social problems.”

The program will launch on a small scale in the spring semester.

The Center for Family Outreach serves youth and supports families in the Fort Collins area. The center addresses issues such as substance abuse, anger and conflict management and works to help youth build decision making, parenting, social and life skills. The center receives referrals from families, schools, churches and community organizations as well as the legal system.