Pals Student Mentors Press Release

(This press release lead to an article published by Grand Valley Lanthorn on 1/29/17)

Student Mentors Make an Impact during National Mentoring Month


ALLENDALE, MI—January marks National Mentoring Month, and a GVSU student organization helps bring quality student mentoring to disadvantaged youth in the Grand Rapids area.

GVSU Pals Student Mentors is a student organization that seeks to positively influence at-risk youth in the greater Grand Rapids area through quality student mentoring. This unique program was founded in 1992, and is continually growing. Mariah Modson, president of GVSU Pals Student mentors, says “I believe by pairing the kids with college aged students, we are seen to be a more comfortable resource than the dominant adult influences. We all know it can be hard to listen to the advice our parents give us, and that if we hear the information from someone closer to our age, we can be more accepting. That is how we live up to our mission.

To become a part of this program, GVSU students fill out a formal application and interview, complete with proper background checks, to be accepted into the program. Each student is then paired with a child considered “at-risk” and in need of a mentor. “The children in the program range in age from five to sixteen years old and come various ethnic and religious groups within the Grand Rapids community,” says Modson, “They are in this program because their parent or guardian feels their child would benefit from having mentor. So whether the child is in foster care, a single-parent home, we give these children a friend.”

Mentoring has been shown to positively affect the youth. According to a 2014 report from Mentor: The National Mentoring Partnership:


  • At-risk young adults with mentors are more likely to be enrolled in college than those without a mentor (45 percent of all at-risk youth with a mentor are enrolled in some type of postsecondary education as opposed to 29 percent of at-risk without a mentor)
  • At-risk young adults with a mentor are more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities (67 percent of at-risk youth with mentors compared to 37 percent of those without them).
  • At-risk young adults with a mentor are more likely to hold a leadership position in a club, sports team, school council, or another group (51 percent versus 22).
  • At-risk young adults with a mentor are more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities (48 percent versus 27).


Mentoring can take on many forms, such as going to the park, visiting the community center for arts and crafts, and skating at Rosa Parks Circle. GVSU student mentor Mariah Otlewski enjoyed spending time with her mentees and realized that her mentoring improved her the children’s social skills, “I took [Daisey] and her brother Mario out to GVSU basketball games and places where she was exposed to large groups of people. Each time she began to become more comfortable and sociable, chatting my ear off more and more each car ride,” Otlewski says.

This month, GVSU Pals and Kappa Kappa Psi Music Fraternity are collaborating to produce a special event for the children called “Mentoring Meets Music,” in which the student mentors and their mentees have the opportunity to learn about music and its production. GVSU student mentor Lelah Davis is excited to share this opportunity with her mentee, both of whom share a passion for music, “When I was growing up, my school stressed the importance of music,” Davis said, “The way I was able to express myself and the relationships I made in band are priceless memories from my childhood. Children need to be influenced at a young age to get involved in school, and I hope this opportunity will motivate my mentee into getting involved in extracurricular activities.”

Currently, GVSU Pals Student Mentors has 130 student mentors, 120 children enrolled, and nearly 1,000 hours of volunteering logged.

When asked about why GVSU Pals Student Mentors is important to the Grand Rapids community, Modson responds, “The Pals program is important for the kids, mentors, and the community. For the kids, they are able to spend time with their mentor and create a bond and be able to look up their mentor as a role model. Coming from “at-risk” environments, getting out of the house for some fun activity allows them to explore their creativity and personality. For the mentors, it truly is  a wonderful feeling when they observe the growth of the kids both in and out of the house. While we do not spend time helping them academically, we still strive for their success in school and assist in any way we can to let them know how important it is for them. This goes into why we matter to the Grand Rapids community. By our mentoring and guidance, they are becoming better people who can grow up to make a difference. We hope that by growing these relationships with them, they stay off the streets and out of harm’s way.”

Contact GVSU Pals Student Mentors:

Mariah Modson, President:

Aaron Robert, Public Relations:

Lelah Davis, Public Relations:




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