Western Oregon University serves the community through mentorship

Written by Maureen Brakke

MONMOUTH, Ore. –  Since 1999, Western Oregon University’s Division of Behavioral Sciences has supported Talmadge Middle School students in Independence, Oregon to foster positive mentoring relationships. Juniors and seniors at Western interested in working with youth in the fields of education, social work, and/or counseling, have the opportunity to mentor middle school students and help them develop skills for academic success and emotional and social growth. 

Many middle school students who face socioeconomic, academic, behavioral, or familial challenges are recommended by their school counselor to participate in this program, and the positive outcomes for students in this program are astounding.

Since the program started 25 years ago, parents have unanimously reported that it has had a positive influence on their children. Children who participate in the program show consistent, measurable improvement across several areas, including school attendance, academic work, social skills, and self-esteem. They also become more interested in attending college. One parent observed “The mentor was great and worked with our crazy schedule and truly cared about my child. Well done.” 

Mentees in the program shared that participating in the program boosted their confidence because there was a steady supportive person to talk to, and noted interest in attending Western and giving back to the program by becoming a mentor. A student mentor shared that mentoring had profoundly impacted their life and helped them solidify their desire to pursue a career as a pediatric clinical psychologist.

Assistant Professor of Psychological Sciences and Program Coordinator Brooke Dolenc Knott Ph.D., noted that leading the WOU-Talmadge mentoring program has been the highlight of her time at Western, as it intertwines both transformative growth for students and benefits the local community. “This collaborative effort not only supports local middle school students’ families but also empowers WOU students to go beyond the classroom learning to apply psychological principles in helping their middle schoolers.” Dolenc Nott shares that it is a joy to watch the lasting positive impact that takes place each year for both WOU and middle school students in the program.

Hayley Atkinson, school counselor at Talmadge Middle School expresses her gratitude for the mentorship program which provides intentional and additional positive support and connection to many of the participating students.  She shares that “Middle school years can be difficult for kids to navigate under the best of circumstances, and the WOU mentor program allows us to provide an extra boost of support to some of our kids.” She adds that her favorite part of the program is getting to see the growth in self-confidence and engagement in both middle school students and their college mentors. “Anyone involved in the program cannot help but be positively influenced by it.” 

This program has been a regular applicant to and recipient of Competitive Grant Funding from the Western Oregon University Foundation. Specifically, the award supports social family events and small stipends for mentors to help motivate middle school students’ success and family involvement that strengthens the mentoring relationship.


About Western Oregon University

Western Oregon University, established in Monmouth in 1856, proudly stands as Oregon’s oldest public university. Hosting around 4,000 students, Western embodies a mid-sized, NCAA Division II institution, with approximately 80% of its students hailing from within the state. Notably, its diverse student body comprises individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, veterans, and non-traditional learners. Western stands as the preferred campus in Oregon for those pursuing an enriching education within a nurturing, student-focused environment, characterized by faculty-led instruction.  Together we succeed.

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