Opportunities are many at Concordia with all the organizations that have been developed or are in the works throughout the past years.
A brand-new organization that is underway is Project Mentor. It started from a sophomore research project and is becoming something much more.
Sean Feeney is a senior and is majoring in mathematical finance and minoring in computer science. The goal of his sophomore research project was to help decrease the achievement gap in Minnesota schools, but he soon realized that it was not an achievement gap but an opportunity gap. Children did not have the proper materials or opportunities to help them succeed. Feeney became a mentor at Churches United and provided the opportunity for children to get outside of the confinements of the homeless shelter and see a different way of thinking.
“The poverty cycle does not have to repeat itself and they can follow their dreams of becoming an astronaut or president or professional athlete,” Feeney said.
Project Mentor is a part of a larger organization Feeney is building called Be Bold, a mentoring non-profit. They are working on becoming a fiscal sponsor project at the Dakota Medical Foundation. They work with other organizations, like Youth Works, to train new mentors, as well as the Fargo and Moorhead school districts to build after-school mentoring programs.
Feeney says they are also supported by the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Nice Center for Entrepreneurship and his colleague Nadia Mitchell, an NDSU student.
There are currently three members: Sean Feeney, Zsofi Zelenak, and Cayli Layne. They are hoping to increase membership once they have everything is in place and flowing.
Sophomore Zsofi Zelenak was introduced to the idea by Sean and he had mentioned to her how he wanted to make it a bigger thing and for students to volunteer long term.
“I slept on it and the next day I was like you know what, we should make it a student organization. So maybe we could get potential students to volunteer and that could turn into a long term volunteer opportunity,” Zelenak said.
Feeney elaborated on the purpose of Project Mentor.
“The goal of the organization is to connect College Student Mentors to children from disadvantaged backgrounds and work to make a positive impact in the children’s lives through activities that aim to expand their love for learning and their desire to achieve in school,” Feeney said.
Students will also be able to use Project Mentor as an opportunity to become responsibly engaged in the world (BREW).
“Our hope is for Concordia students to be able to use their liberal arts education in practice and actively pursue the mission of the college, influencing the affairs of the world, to help end the cycle of poverty within our community,” Feeney continued.
Before the organization is up and going, they have to find a way to screen the mentors and continue building the larger non-profit organization. Feeney says it might not run until next fall. They have meetings set up to find the best ways to further after school mentoring programs and the best way to engage with children when it comes to building the mentor program and non-profit.
Although college students have the reputation for not having enough time to commit to this sort of organization, Feeney wants to break that stereotype. He believes mentoring can offer benefits to both students and children. They are able to become something much bigger and gain emotional skills such as empathy and compassion, while learning to be a leader and knowing that these children are looking up to them. Feeney mentions that it is a very big responsibility to be a positive influence on a child’s life.
“People would like to do good but it’s not always that easy, and when you’re busy as you get here. It’s not always on the top of your list, and I feel like it’s important for us to make it easier for students to have it on your list,” Layne said.
The organization is open to anyone wanting to make an impact on the community. Feeney says it is a program for students wanting to actively BREW outside of Concordia College and make an impact in the lives of the youth.