Thursday, May 20, 2010

Zoomates Finale Includes Chipotle and Climbing Wall

Our last Zoomates activity of the school year was yesterday and it was a great way to end the year. Zoomates pairs 30 students who have experienced homelessness this year with a college student from UC. Check out the Zoomates Blog for a great narrative of the year in pictures.

Chipotle hosted the children for an early dinner. It was organized chaos as sixty plus kids and young adults descended on the restaurant. Most of the children had never been to Chipotle before, so it was very exciting!

The excitement didn't end there as they tried another new experience--the climbing wall at the UC rec center. Add in some open gym time, games, and face painting and you've got a crowd of very happy children.

I had the privilege of conducting a few informal interviews with mentors and mentees. Several UC students have had life changing experiences as a result of this program. One young man told me 'this is my life now,' indicating that the experience has reframed his daily life. This is the second year in a row that students have changed their majors to early childhood, or education. It brings out a passion that is great to observe in young adults.

It was great to learn, because we already knew how important the program is to school stability for the homeless students involved. This year was our most successful with a really good retention rate: 39 children total enrolled in the program and 31 completed the program. The emotional goodbyes yesterday showed the impact and the connection these children have felt over the year. 

One last victory for this year--approximately five Zoomate mentors have signed on to be official mentors for their mentees beyond the program through the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative. So at least a few of those goodbyes were just a 'see you soon.' 

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