“Mentoring Makes Champions for Life – you can help ‘champion’ a child to better grades, better confidence, more strength in the face of adversity, and a successful, crime-free adult life”.

So reads the pamphlet for one of Fairfield’s newer student organizations, the Champions Mentoring program.

This student-run organization, started by Christine Beggan ’12 seeks to provide healthy mentor-mentee relationships with young students in Bridgeport with either one or both of their parents incarcerated.

Beggan has paired up with FUSA’s Freshman Class Council to host the first-ever Dance-a-Thon to raise money for the Champions program.

The Dance-a-Thon will take place all night on April 9th in the Oak Room. Students can register either as participants or competitors; competitors are assigned a number, and then must dance through the night to compete for a $300 gift card to the bookstore.

The Champions Mentoring Program, a group based in Bridgeport, seeks to pair young students between the ages of 6 and 13 with a mentor. Mentors, who must be at least 18 years old and undergo a rigorous interview and screening process, meet with their mentee on a weekly basis for between 45 and 90 minutes.

The Champions program emphasizes “one-on-one mentoring, decreased use of alcohol or drugs, a safe atmosphere for youth to interact with their mentors, lessons in resolving conflicts without violence, and increased self-esteem”.

Through the weekly meetings, Champions seeks to foster close mentor-mentee relationships that build trust and confidence between the young student and their mentor.

According to a 2011 study by the Northwestern School of Law published in the Journal of Law and Criminology, there “are more children with incarcerated parents than there are people in prison”. Another study highlights that children with incarcerated parents are six times more likely to end up in prison at some point in their life.

“Knowing that children usually follow in their parents’ footsteps made me want to mentor,” says Beggan, a Marketing major from Mansfield, MA. She started the Champions chapter at Fairfield, which has since grown to 13 current volunteers and 6 more volunteers in the process of becoming mentors.

The partnership between the FUSA Freshman Class Council and Champions began when FUSA had the idea to hold a benefit Dance-a-Thon. Freshman Class Vice President Arturo Jaras Watts, a Champions mentor, thought to hold the event to raise money for Champions. Champions is currently partially funded by a three-year federal grant from the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Champions is a joint program of Family ReEntry and The Connecticut Mentoring Partnership. Mentors can be all ages but college students are in particularly high demand.

Beggan highlights the fact that there is a large wait list for children to receive mentors, and that more mentors are needed every day. She hopes to increase the organization’s Fairfield chapter to over 20 students by next year.

Monica Mosho, a sophomore Champions Mentor, believes that the Champions program “definitely allows the children to open up to a responsible and dependable person who they may otherwise not have in their life”.

“Kids come running down the hall asking me to be their mentor,” says Beggan. “You can tell just by walking into the school just how this matters.”

If you want more information on how to apply to be a Champions Mentor, please contact Christine Beggan or call the program’s Bridgeport office at (203) 382-1190.

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