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UC Med Mentors Program Rewards CPS Students with Laptop Giveaway

For over two decades, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) students have been granted an intimate glimpse into the journeys of future medical professionals at the University of Cincinnati's College of Medicine while forging friendships that last a lifetime.

Since 2001, UC Med Mentors has paired aspiring doctors with CPS students, in second through sixth grade. Organized by Cincinnati Youth Collaborative (CYC), the program provides medical students with an opportunity to engage with Cincinnati youth by offering life-enriching experiences through relationships that lead to academic and intellectual growth.

UC Med Mentor with Student "We love our connections working at CPS," CYC mentor program coordinator Karla Arango said. "It's a great population of students, and it feels very accomplishing to know the med students get a lot out of this as well." 

Initially offered at just three CPS elementary schools, the program has expanded over time with demand so popular there’s now a waitlist for kids to join.

“It’s grown tremendously,” Arango said. “Hopefully by next fall we’ll be able to meet all those kids’ needs.”

Another crucial part of the program’s mission is pushing mentees to be computer literate. Dr. Charlie Cavallo, 1999 UC graduate and leader of the program’s advisory board, said it’s an honor to provide select students with technology and grow their skills.

“We use the computer as a reward and as an incentive,” Dr. Cavallo explained. “But ultimately it’s a tool for them to help progress their education.”

Mentees fill out their application for the laptop and have their mentor review it before submitting. Dr. Cavallo said kids who remain active in the program with consistent school attendance and good grades are more likely to be selected.

The laptop giveaway application process is just one example of the UC Med Mentors program in action. Mentors visit mentees at least twice per month, including in-school visits for lunch, and talk on the phone at least once per week, catching up on all things school and life. Students also take group visits to fun places like the Cincinnati Zoo and Kings Island.

Evanston Academy fifth grader Bri’ayr Brooks’ mentor convinced her to step outside of her comfort zone and touch a starfish at the Newport Aquarium. Brooks also wants to pursue a career in medicine one day, so seeing her mentor go through medical school gives her the utmost confidence in her ability.

“I want to become a doctor, and it’s easy because she’s in medical school,” Brooks said about her mentor. “It doesn’t seem like it’s hard because she can do anything.”

CPS students can lean on their mentors for support, too. If their guardians have busy schedules or they don’t have older siblings at home to look up to, mentees turn to their mentors for advice and guidance.

While exciting activities around the city and the laptop giveaway incentivize CPS students to participate, it’s completely voluntary for the mentors. The UC medical students sign up to make a difference purely out of the kindness of their hearts.

“Their schedules are absolutely just hectic at times,” Arango said. “They have four-hour long lectures, clinicals, outside jobs and hours of studying, and they still make time to meet with these kids.”

Sarah Ray is a second-year medical student grateful for her opportunity to serve as a mentor. Many inspiring people led her to medical school at UC, so she wanted to give back and do the same for other kids. Because Ray is bought in, the program has been an outlet for her between hours of studying.

“They really have a big impact on our lives as well,” Ray said. “They make medical school exciting and fun.”

The program currently sees mentors assisting students at the following schools: 

  • Kilgour Elementary
  • Fairview-Clifton German Language School
  • Roll Hill Elementary
  • Fredrick Douglass Elementary School
  • William H. Taft Elementary School
  • Gamble Montessori Elementary School
  • Hays-Porter Elementary School
  • Rockdale Academy

You can learn more about the UC Med Mentor Program by clicking the link here: