Academic All-State Alumni Mentoring Program
University of Oklahoma, Norman
Andrew “Andy” McDowell of Miami, Okla., is a busy biochemistry major at the University of Oklahoma who has made time the past two years to mentor two students at McKinley Elementary School in Norman.
Honored in 2015 by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence as one of Oklahoma’s 100 Academic All-State Scholars, McDowell enthusiastically volunteered for the foundation’s Academic All-State Alumni Mentoring Program. Last year, he was matched with Nick, a second-grader and foster child who was adopted by his foster mother but had no male role model. McDowell and his mentee enjoyed reading; learning about snakes and reptiles; and playing games, including chess, which McDowell taught Nick to play.
“His imagination is remarkable,” McDowell said of Nick. “He invents new games weekly and changes the rules to fit his needs as they arise. It is quite impressive. His desire to learn is very strong.”
School staff praised McDowell and Nick’s relationship as, “strong, positive and heart-warming.” At his year-end report, McDowell described Improvements in his mentee’s abilities, especially reading. When Nick moved to a new city over the summer, McDowell was matched to a new mentee, fifth-grader Ethan. To launch his relationship with Ethan, McDowell brought a variety of different icebreakers and worksheets to determine Ethan’s interests.
“I found out that he loves filling out Mad Lib word games,” McDowell said. “He has a remarkable imagination, and the stories he crafts are quite comical. After doing Mad Libs, we usually talk about his day, and I let him choose what activity to do next. Sometimes we read or research a certain topic, and other times we play board games.”
McDowell said it has been a joy spending time with Ethan, who has grown in his ability to focus and pay attention during games and activities. “Ethan is always fun and extremely bright. His imagination is second to none, so it is always an adventure when I meet with him.”
Beverly Woodrome, director of the Academic All-State Alumni Mentoring Program, praised McDowell for making time in his busy college schedule for training, monitoring and forming a trusted supportive relationship with his mentees. McDowell said he has gained much more than he expected through the program.
“Mentoring has helped me grow in my leadership skills and as a student,” McDowell said. “This is the most valuable use of my volunteer time that I have found to date.”
About the program: The Academic All-State Alumni Mentoring Program, coordinated by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, matches Academic All-State Scholars with students at targeted elementary schools. Each mentor spends at least one hour a week volunteering one-to-one with an assigned student.