News Local/State

Champaign-Urbana Schools Seeking Mentors To Support Immigrant Children

mentor with child

CU 1-to-1

The school-based mentorship program CU 1-to-1 is seeking more mentors, especially for immigrant children who need extra support.

At a recent training event for mentors, Lucia Maldonado, Latino Parent Liason for the Urbana School District, showed a picture of an 8-year-old girl who had recently spent four months separated from her family at a detention center on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Maldonado said for the first week after she reunited with family in Urbana, “she was not eating, she wouldn't talk to anybody, was not playing with her sister even when her sister was trying really hard to interact with her.”

She said there are at least a dozen students in Urbana schools who’ve been through similar trauma and could really use the support of a mentor through the CU 1-to-1 program.

“We hear about these things: the drama, the crisis close to the border,” Maldonado says. “It’s not (just) close to the border. We have many of them right here in our community.”

Mentors commit to spending one hour a week for at least a year, meeting one-on-one with students during the school day.

Maldonado said she’s seen the difference having a mentor can make for immigrant students. She said two of those mentees recently graduated from Urbana High School.

“The fact that they had that one person who was saying, ‘You're going to go to school, we're going to look for scholarships, and look, I found this information and we're going to go to this workshop and visit this college’--that made a huge difference,” Maldonado said.

The need is particularly great for mentors who speak Spanish, but language skills are not a requirement.

Mentors must go through a brief interview process, undergo a background check, and attend a two-hour training session.

The next training event is at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, at Urbana Middle School. The final training for this school year will take place at 11:30 am on Feb. 7, 2019, at the Mellon Building in Champaign.

Those who are interested in becoming a mentor in Urbana schools can contact Tom Howley at For Champaign schools, contact Lauren Smith at

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman