Between balancing practice, classes, homework and jobs, Davenport University student-athletes are dedicating time to mentor children in Caledonia schools.
The HEROES Mentoring Program, led by the DU Volunteer Center at the W.A Lettinga Campus, focuses on helping middle school students develop competence and character.
“The DU volunteers get a lot out of being there for someone else and knowing they have the ability to change someone’s life,” said Maddie Poindexter, AmeriCorps VISTA and volunteer coordinator at DU.
Poindexter, who oversees the program, said the volunteers aid students with homework, play sports with them and help address serious topics such as bullying.
“I think the DU students learn a lot about themselves,” she said. “Some of them are a little fearful or concerned at the beginning with those questions of whether the students will like them and how they will get to know them. Then they find out the middle school students just wants to spend time with them.”
The children enjoy the one-on-one attention that they might not be getting elsewhere.
“A lot of the mentees do not have a strong family life when they go home after school, so sometimes this 45 minutes is the only time someone is asking them how they are doing,” she said.
Levi Six, a freshman from Fruitport, Michigan, joined the program because he recalls at a young age looking up to athletes and hoped he could give that to a child someday. Six is studying Sports Marketing and is a member of the wrestling team.
“Every student should participate in the HEROES Mentor Program,” he said. “Not only does it help the student but it helps you connect and become that role-model for someone who needs guidance.”
Jenna Asper, a volleyball player from Caledonia, Michigan, became involved because she remembers her mother mentoring children in the same school.
“All you have to do is show up,” Asper, who is studying to get her health and human services case management, said. “A lot of the students come from brokenness. You have to build that relationship for them to trust you.”
Paige Gould, a junior from Clare, Michigan, keeps in touch with students she has connected to in the past. Gould is studying Accounting and is on DU’s Track & Field team.
“I have always had a passion for helping others in any way possible,” Gould said. “When I first heard of what the HEROES Mentoring Program was all about, I knew it was something I needed to be a part of. The HEROES program was a place where I could listen to these students who needed someone consistent.”