The Teach, Learn, Grow program at Chemeketa Woodburn was founded six years ago with the support of Campus Compact of Oregon VISTAs, and College Access Corps members have coordinated the program ever since. At TLG, CAC members recruit, train, and coach Chemeketa students to become community volunteers. The students act as mentors and provide academic support for middle and high school students in Woodburn.
TLG’s recipe for college-K12 mentorship is about long-term investment in students and the Woodburn community. The program encourages community engagement and volunteering, builds a college-going culture in local schools, and encourages students who may not have considered it before to pursue teaching in the community as a long-term career. And it’s working. Says Elias: “Some of the students who went through the program as youth are now Chemeketa students. We have had a few of them become mentors. And some of the students who were mentors 5 years ago are now teachers – they went to Chemeketa, transferred to Pacific University across the street, and are now teaching here in our community.”
How do they do it? “We would not be able to do this great work without this support from the AmeriCorps program,” says Elias. College Access Corps members recruit mentors at Chemeketa by visiting classrooms at the start of term, set up a booth at schools during lunchtimes to recruit youth, match mentors with youth they connect with, create curriculum and fun activities for weekly sessions, plan university visit field trips, and organize service days and community events such as Woodburn Proud City Clean Up Day and Cinco de Mayo. Chemeketa also makes serving with TLG worthwhile for its students. The college students take a free mentoring class for 2 elective credits, and they can take it up to three times, so it can actually save students money on school.
TLG is transformative for both the K12 youth and the Chemeketa students. “When the youth build a relationship with college students they are more engaged in academics. Then once they realize how important education is, it changes their perspective. Then they also give back to their communities," CAC alum Alvaro Mendoza explains.
“There was a mentor who thought she only wanted to do the program for one term,” shares current CAC member Cassandra Martinez. “Then she got really attached to three students at the middle school. She decided to come back for winter term, then spring term. When we have mentors come back, it brings a lot of joy to me because they are enjoying their community and making an impact.”
Alvaro also remembers “a young gentleman who was a mentor, was able to get a Ford Foundation Scholarship for a full ride to PSU because of the community service he did through TLG. He told his story about his mentoring experience in his essay. I was honored to write him a letter of recommendation.”
Elias agrees. “Many students who come to college don’t know what they want to study, and through this program they go on to become teachers. Our students have changed majors, and became teachers in our community.”