Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine students have spent more than 3,500 hours mentoring local Hispanic youth as part of a three-year-old community outreach program that shows no signs of slowing.
OUWB Hispanic youth mentor program surpasses 3,500 hours of service
OUWB Hispanic youth mentor program 1
OUWB medical students Kristen Cuadra (far left) and Tim Elton (far right) sit with two of the participating mentees in the OUWB-Hispanic Newcomer Outreach Mentoring Program, which just wrapped up its third year.

Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine students have spent more than 3,500 hours mentoring local Hispanic youth as part of a three-year-old community outreach program that shows no signs of slowing.

The OUWB-Hispanic Newcomer Outreach (HNO) Mentoring Program is a collaborative effort between OUWB and Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan (CCSM).

The OUWB-HNO Mentoring Program began in 2016 to supplement an existing mentorship program at the Pontiac-based nonprofit.

HNOMP recently wrapped up its most recent year (which generally runs February through December).

Seventy-four Hispanic youth have participated in the program since inception.
More than 30 medical student mentors already are signed up for next year — something Ryan Rogers, M2, OUWB, and current program co-coordinator, said is reflective of the impact of the program on everyone involved.

“We can see it in (the mentees) …one year with their mentor and their life trajectories have completely changed,” Rogers said. “It’s just incredible what a weekly conversation with one of the (mentee) students in our program can do for them in terms of instilling self-confidence, a passion for learning, and more.”

Helen Huetteman, M2, OUWB, and co-coordinator, recalled a young mentee who was so nervous at the first session that he had to leave because he became sick.

“At the end of the program he was talking to everybody,” she said. “He’s super close with his mentor, his mom is also close with the mentor… (the mentee) comes in and gives us all hugs and smiles. It’s amazing how much the kids can change.”

An opportunity to enact change

Claudio Cortes, Ph.D., assistant professor of immunology, OUWB Department of Foundational Medical Studies, helped create the program and serves as faculty coordinator. In addition to CCSM, co-sponsors of the program are Compass (the official address of OUWB's community engagement), and the Latino Medical Student Association. 

Cortes said Catholic Charities originally reached out to OUWB because the organization needed mentors. They also sought to incorporate more educational elements into the mentorship programs.

Throughout the years, Cortes said, as many as seven faculty members and HNO coordinators have been involved in helping shape the program to what it is today.

OUWB Hispanic youth mentor program 2In short, first-year medical student volunteers are paired with a local Hispanic youth between the ages 8 and 15 to provide guidance and serve as a positive role model.

Mentors and mentees commit to attending sessions about twice a month, as well as participate in weekly phone-calls.

Each in-person session revolves around one topic that may be educational or extracurricular. One session might involve anatomy or the health benefits of dancing, while another could be a field trip to a cider mill in autumn.

Upon completion of the program, mentees present on a project that he/she completed under the guidance and direction of their mentor, whereas medical students receive a formal certificate of community service. This year, the presentations were given on-campus at OUWB in November.

‘It just keeps growing’

Huetteman said OUWB students volunteer for various reasons.

“I don’t speak Spanish and really didn’t know much about the culture when I started,” she said. “But I really wanted to do something that had an impact on the community. I saw this as a great opportunity to do that.”

Rogers said he was looking for a longitudinal volunteer opportunity that included a mentoring element.

“It’s great to do one-day service events and help out, but it can feel like you’re missing out on a deep-set impact,” he said. “This program really offers that.”

OUWB Hispanic youth mentor program 3Cortes said it makes sense for OUWB to get involved with the program because, among other reasons, it reflects the school’s commitment to community.

However, he said it also offers a tremendous learning experience for OUWB students — from what it’s like to be a mentor to being exposed to a different culture.

“They also gain communication skills with children,” he said. “As future physicians, many have expressed that this is important for them.”

Cortes said he’s ecstatic about how the program has evolved.

“The beauty of the program is that it just keeps growing,” he said. “The program started with only 11 mentors, and now we have 32 (annually). We could have even more if there were more mentees.

“I really admire the devotion of the medical students to the program,” he continued.

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected]

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