Compass 2 Campus, an award-winning mentor program, said goodbye to retiring Executive Director Cyndie Shepard in June and welcomed Anselmo Villanueva to Western.
“[Shepard] was very instrumental in developing the Compass 2 Campus program at Western,” Villanueva said. “It has a solid foundation and a great track record of serving both college students as mentors and students in grades five through 12.”
Shepard created the program in the fall of 2009 and it allows Western students to mentor fifth through 12th graders at 32 schools throughout Whatcom and Skagit county, according to the Compass 2 Campus website.
Villanueva has a doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction with a focus on multicultural education from the University of Oregon. He has held many positions in K-12 education, including principal of three different schools, classroom teacher, school counselor, curriculum coordinator, equity specialist and vice president of a middle school.
He has taught students at Lane Community College, University of Oregon, Northwest Christian University, Pacific University and Western Oregon University who either wanted to become teachers or school administrators at universities and colleges, Villanueva said. The goal of the program is to support and encourage students, especially underrepresented, diverse and first generation students to graduate high school and pursue higher education through mentorship from college students, according to the website.
The college mentors visit the students for a minimum of four hours a week to tutor, develop relationships and mentor them. The students in the program receive mentoring until they graduate high school, according the the Compass 2 Campus website.
Senior Tia Collins was a mentor with the program for three quarters and an ambassador for two.
“My favorite part was coming back to the school my second quarter and seeing all my kids again,” she said. “Their attitude towards me had completely changed because they saw I was dedicated to coming back, and we built really strong relationships after that.”
Villanueva said he wants to ensure the program does enough advertising and outreach across campus that will bring in a diverse pool of mentors to reflect the diversity of public schools.
“They are extremely diverse in languages or country of origins. As a program, we need to meet the needs of those students,” he said.
The mentors don’t necessarily have to be from the same background as the kids, Villanueva said. He said he has met a student who isn’t Latino but is bilingual and thinks the person would be a great mentor for someone who is either bilingual or predominately Spanish speaking.
One of Villanueva’s goals is to increase research on the program.
“We know it works, but need some actual ‘studies’ to demonstrate its success, especially to potential funders for grants,” Villanueva said.
He has spoken to people within the college of education that are interested in doing the research, Villanueva said. He will be meeting with them later this summer about possible research projects regarding Compass 2 Campus.
“I think of [Shepard] as a really positive female role model. She was great because she had high expectations for all of us, and we got to learn a lot of job skills that will transition into any job we could ever have.”
The program has seen much success since its start and has earned four awards, including President Obama’s Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction and The Washington Association of School Administrators Award.
As a mentor, Collins said the instructors give them a lot of instruction on how to act with the kids, what’s appropriate and how to build relationships with them.
“I think that the most valuable thing I learned was just recognizing that people are different from you,” Collins said. “Just because their lives might look different, or have different things in them, they may act differently, or look differently, it doesn’t mean that they are of any less value than you. I learned how to really value all the qualities of the people around me and the kids that I meet.”
Western senior Harper Loveless worked for Compass 2 Campus as a lead mentor for almost two years after mentoring for a year and a half.
As a lead she organized student mentors, got them into classrooms, made sure the teachers within the schools were happy with them, and helped the mentors with weekly reflections and staying connected.
Her favorite memory throughout her time with the program was when mentored at an elementary school and got to learn and practice a dance routine with fifth grade girls at recess throughout the quarter, Loveless said.
“It just got a bunch of kids who don’t usually hangout together to come together and teach each other stuff and it was just a ton of fun,” she said.
This experience allowed the students to see her as not someone who only helps them in the classroom, but someone who enjoys each of them as a person, she said.
Loveless worked closely with Shepard because of her role as a lead mentor.
“I think of [Shepard] as a really positive female role model,” Loveless said. “She was great because she had high expectations for all of us, and we got to learn a lot of job skills that will transition into any job we could ever have.”
Loveless appreciated the opportunity to work with someone that was high up in the program who also cared greatly about her employees well-being, both professionally and personally.
Compass 2 Campus was created shortly after Shepard and her husband Bruce Shepard, the former president of Western, came to the university in fall of 2008, according to the Compass 2 Campus website.
Cyndie had created a similar program in 2003 at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, where the couple worked prior to Western.
The Higher Education Coordinating Council Board in Olympia asked Cyndie to start a program at Western and create a pilot mentoring initiative for other colleges, universities and other post secondary institutions to follow. The board offered support by creating a legislative bill and worked to pass it.
On April 21, 2009, House Bill 1986 passed, and by the fall, Compass 2 Campus kicked off by serving nine local school districts, according to the website.
Collins felt she got to know Cyndie well during her time with the program.
“I thought she was a really great instructor, and I feel like she cared about the success of every single kid in the class, even though there was probably about 100 of us,” Collins said.
Cyndie and her husband have officially retired from Western at the end of the 2015-2016 school year.