Dubuque Students Have Success in New Mentoring Program

DUBUQUE, Iowa - Some students in Dubuque can now get mentoring help through a national program called "Check and Connect." The program pairs high school students with those studying at Loras College.

Loras College Student, Tori Ochs talks with her Mentee, Mia.

On Thursday, Governor Branstad signed a proclamation declaring January as mentoring month across the state.

He says more than 8000 mentors already help kids in Iowa through various programs. But he says thousands more could benefit from such an opportunity.

The conversation between Tori Ochs and her mentee, Mia, might look like just a couple gal pals chatting. But the connections the two young women are making, is making a huge difference in both their lives.

Ochs said, "She's sometimes grumpy when she comes to school. But after an hour with me she's happy and she's really focused on school. "

Tori Ochs is a Social Work major at Loras College. As part of the Check and Connect program, she's paired with Mia, a student at the Alternative Learning Center.

Ochs works with students like Mia to monitor school work and grades.
Kim Nelson, Life Coach for the Dubuque Community School District said, "If a student is falling behind or their attendance is sketchy, the mentor is on top of that."

Nelson said the mentors motivate students to keep up with school work and balance that with social and home life pressures. The pairs often discuss life after high school.

"They see what being a college student looks like and what it takes and that's a huge motivator," said Nelson.

Ochs said, "She's only 16 and she's already talking about college. And she has a great future ahead of her. "

And as much as Mia's getting out of this mentorship, it's just as life changing for Ochs.

"They know a lot more things than I know. They've had experiences that I haven't gone through. It's eye opening," said Ochs.