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ASU honors students mentor Phoenix youth in Talent Match

Sparky poses with Talent Match students
May 06, 2014

Jesus Gonzales, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Phoenix Collegiate Academy, wants to go to college and be a baseball player. He has been inspired to follow his dream by participating in the Talent Match program at Barrett, the Honors College, at Arizona State University.

Talent Match creates one-to-one mentoring relationships between Barrett student volunteers and fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from the Phoenix Collegiate Academy (PCA). Honors students are paired with the youths to develop talents in practically any area of interest, including sports, art, cooking, music and science.

Phoenix Academy students also work on speaking and personal development skills under the tutelage of Barrett students.

Gonzales and about two dozen of his schoolmates traveled by bus to the Barrett Honors College Tempe campus every Tuesday afternoon throughout the 2014 spring semester to participate in the program, which was capped off with a talent show attended by mentors and parents. 

“I loved it. I got to play sports and meet new people,” said Gonzales, who perfected his ping pong skills. “I told my friends to have a good time and remember this because we’re going to be at ASU for college someday.”

Talent Match has been a positive partnership between Barrett Honors College, a selective, residential college for academically outstanding undergraduates, and the academy, a charter school located in south Phoenix that prepares underprivileged fourth- through 12th-grade students to succeed in college and be leaders in the community. 

“Talent Match gives our students the opportunity to experience college life and be exposed to role models who help them realize college is an option for them,” said Rachel Yanof, founder and CEO of the academy, adding that the program also incorporates an enrichment component into the curriculum that the school couldn’t otherwise afford to provide.

Since its inception in 1999 as an honors student’s class project, Talent Match has created mentor relationships among nearly 700 Barrett and elementary students, equating to more than 10,000 hours of community service. Barrett students have mentored Phoenix Collegiate Academy students for nearly six years. Prior to partnering with PCA, Barrett students mentored students from a parochial school in Phoenix.

Talent Match, as a Barrett student organization, is supported by the college through an annual budget that pays for travel, supplies and equipment. Such was the success of the program that during the 2012-2013 school year, Talent Match expanded from the ASU Barrett Tempe campus to the ASU Barrett Downtown Phoenix campus. At the Downtown Phoenix campus, Barrett students mentored children from ASU Preparatory Academy, an innovative K-12 charter school that believes all students can achieve a four-year university degree.

"I love being involved in Talent Match because the program allows me to develop meaningful relationships with the children I mentor. Through these relationships I am able to inspire the children to both learn a new talent and pursue a college education,” said Abishek Dharan, director of Talent Match.

“From the first day the kids visit ASU, you can tell how astounded they are by the college environment, with kids often asking me questions like ‘Is this your school?’ and ‘You mean you get to go to school and sleep here?’ Getting to open their eyes to the opportunities a college environment provides through Talent Match is something that is extremely rewarding, I think, for both the mentors and the mentees," he added.