GFU Student on aLocal Mentoring Program

Reported by Mollisande Williams

Photographed by John Joo

Christian Hughes is no stranger to working with students. He’s done it as a resident’s assistant at George Fox University (GFU) for multiple years, during an internship at Odyssey Preschool and now again for his internship at Catalyst High School.

Hughes first interviewed for the position during his sophomore year during a field fair, at which point he didn’t get the internship. It wasn’t until his junior year that he decide to give it another shot – and this time, he was given a chance, just like the kids at Catalyst High School.

Catalyst High School is an alternative school containing 60-80 students who struggle with personal, academic or social issues. Students have to personally seek the school and interview prior to being accepted. Some students are from lower-income families, were bullied in school or struggled in the standard academic environment.

Students attending Catalyst High School are provided with smaller class sizes, six-week learning cycles, and mentoring and tutoring. This way, students have more accessible resources, can reach milestones and get a one-on-one learning atmosphere.  

Hughes, a senior social work major, began the internship in fall of 2018 where he quickly learned the rewarding but challenging obstacles he’d face.

“I feel like with Catalyst, the students have a lot of needs. A lot of people here at George Fox have support already in place, like friends or family back home,” Hughes said. “The students at the high school I’m working with, a lot of them don’t really have anybody. Some of them don’t even have family.”

As a social work intern for the high school, Hughes’ main project is overseeing the mentoring and tutoring program. The school partners with outside forces, primarily GFU students, and pairs them up with struggling students.

The mentors are each assigned a student, with availability and personality in mind, and are asked to be a positive figure in their lives. Mentors begin with a brief training for active listening and effective communication skills.

Once ready to begin, they are required to have a one-hour session per week at minimum with their student - simply to talk with them, give advice and become a friend. The time spent with the student can take place during their breakfast or lunch breaks, or during other available time slots. Because GFU students are in a similar season of learning, they can respond with empathy and patience when mentoring or tutoring the high school students.

Besides the benefit of adding this volunteer work to a resume, GFU students can gain a lot from this experience. Many form bonds with their students and get the chance to see them grow and succeed.

Being a part of the mentoring and tutoring program has allowed Hughes to “realize that [he] is blessed to be able to be here at George Fox and recognize that there are people in [his] life that helped [him] get to this point and now has the opportunity to give back in that same way,” he said.

To be a mentor, the desire to form a relationship with a student is necessary. For tutoring, the only requirement is basic understanding and interest in the subject. To learn more, contact Christian Hughes at

Jessica DaughertyComment