CCAK receives donation to fund new mentor training and education

Colby Cares About Kids (CCAK), a volunteer initiative that connects Colby students with elementary students in the greater Waterville area, recently received a donation from the Borman family to enhance mentor training and education. CCAK is by far the most popular volunteering experience amongst Colby students. This year alone, the program has 272 returning mentors and 108 new mentors. 

In the past, CCAK’s mentors were only trained prior to meeting their mentee. After their first meeting, no formal training or continuing education existed for mentors. In a recent interview, the Echo spoke with Elizabeth Kane `19, an AmeriCorps volunteer for CCAK, about the donation and its impact on the future of the program. 

“The Borman family has supported CCAK in the past,” Kane said, “but this year they gave us a gift to support training for our mentors and to strengthen the education aspect of our program. This spring we’re going to be offering three workshops, each about an hour-and-a-half long. It’s a continuing education model, and we’re calling it ‘Colby’s Commitment to Advancing Knowledge,’ or CCAK.”

The availability of the training sessions will not be limited to CCAK mentors; it will be open to any member of the Colby community interested in working with children.

“Although it’s through the CCAK program and all of our mentors are welcome to come and should come, we’re hoping to promote it in various departments, like the education department, psychology department, or really anyone who’s interested in learning about these topics or anybody who works with youth and feels like they would benefit from coming to our trainings. Anyone’s welcome,” Kane said. “This is our first year, it’s a pilot program for these trainings, so hopefully in the coming years we also continue to add on options and other workshops.”

Topics for the training sessions were chosen based on feedback from mentors and members of CCAK’s student advisory board.

“I know mentors want further support, training, and education,” Kane said. “And we all know there’s really never an endpoint in their education. But sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint a specific workshop which can get at something we’re missing. So it’s been a really exciting process training to brainstorm how we can best support our mentors.”

“We’ve gotten feedback from the student advisory board on what they would’ve liked support on. There are two to four board members per school, and they’re the leaders of the program, so we have a few meetings each semester and they were part of the brainstorming process.”

One of the topics currently confirmed for the spring sessions is sustainable volunteerism. This workshop will teach students and other volunteers about how to best manage their time and take care of themselves during their service.

“The first workshop will be given by Kimberly Simmons, who is a professor at the University of Southern Maine,” Kane said. “She is in the Women and Gender Studies Department there, and she is doing a workshop on burnout and sustainable volunteerism. She’s looking at how, despite busy student life, students can continue their volunteering.”

“That second workshop will be given by Kathleen Paradis, and she is with the Sexual Assault Prevention Center in Maine,” Kane said. “She will be doing a sexual assault prevention and awareness training for mentors and anybody working with youth. She does this already within the community, so she’ll be doing her workshop with our students.”

The final workshop topic has yet to be confirmed. However, Kane shared one topic which the board has been considering: “Motivational interviewing is something we’re looking into to help our mentors know how to ask the questions to get their mentees talking. Normally motivational interviewing is training people how to ask the right interview questions, but this would be tailored toward mentors or anyone else working with kids on how to ask the right questions. So that’s another topic we’re looking to possibly have a workshop on. But right now we’re really in the brainstorming phase of everything.”

Kane also shared that the brainstorming for these sessions has sparked several conversations about how to improve the program’s pre-mentor training as well as additional

training opportunities. 

“We’re hoping to enhance our pre-mentor training as well and also continue to add more options for people in the program,” she said. “For the sexual assault prevention awareness training we’re thinking of moving to before mentors are out in the schools, so they have that foundational knowledge. We’re working with Tarja Raag, who is [a professor] in the psychology department, to figure out other additional knowledge about young children that we can incorporate into our pre-mentor training.”

CCAK mentors can soon expect an increase in support and educational resources from the program. 

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