CWU News

CWU Students to Mentor Fifth-Graders in Wapato

CWU student mentors listen as Janet Spybrook explains Compass 2 Campus on the second day of class. (Barb Arnott/CWU)

Tour Day Kicks off First Quarter of Compass 2 Campus

On the first day of class, Janet Spybrook assigned an icebreaker that put construction paper and crayons into the hands of her college students. The task: Draw a picture of your mentor.

Among the colorful renderings of smiling faces were moms and dads, brothers, a little sister, teachers, an adviser, a boss, a godmother, a husband, a friend and a cousin.

“So you see, there are a variety of mentors,” said Spybrook, a professor in CWU’s department of Language, Literacy and Special Education. By the end of the month, her students will be mentors, too.

Spybrook is leading CWU’s adoption of Compass 2 Campus, a youth mentoring program designed to encourage students from underrepresented and low-income backgrounds to finish high school and enroll in postsecondary education. The program is being transported to CWU from Western Washington University where Compass 2 Campus is in its fifth year of mentoring students in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

Supporting faculty and students

Spybrook credits three other CWU faculty members for playing a key role in starting Compass 2 Campus: Cristina Santamaria-Graff, Susana Flores and Janet Finke. Graduate student Rebekah Fuss is Compass 2 Campus coordinator. and undergrads Felisa Sanchez, Holly Allen and Jessica Post are lead mentors. Compass 2 Campus also has an AmeriCorps member, Danielle Sprague, who serves as a liaison between Spybrook and Wapato School District.

Get involved

Tour day volunteers are needed to lead groups of fifth-graders and give them a glimpse of college life. Training is provided and you'll receive a free T-shirt.  To sign up, email or call 509-963-1506.

Compass 2 Campus is still recruiting CWU students to mentor in fifth-grade classrooms. Register for ECTL 201 to learn valuable skills and get field experience in elementary schools. Students can repeat the course up to three times for credit and continue to volunteer after that.


Wapato School District

Wapato has three elementary schools with about 280 fifth-graders. The district has a diverse student body, with about 21 percent Native American, 70 percent Hispanic, and smaller Caucasian and Asian populations, Imler said.For its first year, CWU has partnered with Wapato School District where Compass 2 Campus marries well with another district initiative called U Can Be College Bound, says Superintendent Becky Imler.

“We very much have a district where over 90 percent of children are on free and reduced lunches, which is an indicator of poverty,” Imler said. “And for them, college is harder to access.”

A tour day on October 28 will kick off the program. All 280 Wapato fifth-graders will visit the Ellensburg campus to get a firsthand look at college life and meet their mentors.

“A lot of our kids have not had the opportunity to have a family member go to college and visit a college campus themselves, so this makes it real and relevant,” Imler said. “And we know that when there is relevance in teaching it increases understanding.”

There are 21 CWU students enrolled in the three-credit class required to be a Compass 2 Campus mentor. In the weeks leading up to tour day, the course teaches mentoring skills and prepares them for the classroom. For the rest of the quarter, each mentor will spend at least four hours a week in Wapato classrooms.

Options after high school

“What we really want to do is expose kids to options after high school, and in order to get to those options, you have to finish high school. So that’s our major push,” Spybrook said.

And while the mentors may talk about their own experience at a four-year university, one goal is to educate the students about all possibilities, such as trade school, two-year college, and the military.

Mentors will not only serve as role models for post-secondary education, but also provide academic support. By starting in fifth grade, the program hopes to encourage more students to stay in school.

“By getting them in fifth grade, we’re hoping that they’re not going to drop out,” Spybrook said.

Compass 2 Campus mentors will then follow the students up to middle school and high school. Only fifth graders, however, participate in tour day. Next year Compass 2 Campus plans to expand to other school districts in central Washington.

Media contact: Barb Arnott, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-2841,

October 13, 2014