Guiding kids to success
The Cougars for Kids community service volunteer program was established six years ago in an effort to give UH students a chance to make a positive influence on kids and give back to the community.
Technology professor Jerry Evans created Cougars for Kids after being inspired by his wife’s company volunteer trip. Ten years ago, Gil Evans, who had worked as the project manager for the Fortune 500 Company, invited Jerry out to an elementary school to volunteer with her.
Since then, the idea stayed with him, later inspiring him to create something bigger.
“One night, six years ago, it was a November evening, after I taught my class and I was leaving around 9:30, I’d began seriously thinking about it,” he said. “We need to do something to get our kids at this college to start volunteering. And I thought hospitals, children’s hospitals.”
As a result, Cougars for Kids began with 30 students from the College of Technology.
Evans, who personally went to volunteer at the Texas Children’s, M.D. Anderson and Memorial Hermann hospitals, decided to expand the program by asking the dean of technology to open it to the entire University.
Cougars for Kids opened to the University at large the following spring semester, and it quickly grew with students with various majors. The program transitioned to include not only hospitals but tutoring and mentorship at local schools around the greater Houston area.
“We read to children, play games with them and we tutor them,” Evans said. “We get all of these students with all these different degrees; we’ve got a real cross section of tutoring help. Whatever we can help them with. We are there to make their lives better.”
One of the program’s objectives is to help students reach their goals.
“In schools, we do mentoring — some tutoring but mostly mentoring,” Evans said. “They will be paired up with (elementary to high school) students to help them along. It’s kind of like, ‘What are your goals?’ That’s the big thing. Our students work with the kids to help them identify their goals and to make a plan to reach them.”
Dean of Technology and assistant director of Cougars for Kids Lois Nichols, who hosts Lollipop Radio at Texas Children’s Hospital, hopes to instill confidence in the students.
“We hope to make them believe in themselves, to be able to think they can do more than they thought they could,” Nichols said. “A child may think that if no one in their family has gone to college, they wouldn’t be able to. A college student can make them think, ‘Yeah, you can do it!’ It’s more of a positive influence and having them see their other options.”
The program is open to all UH staff, students and alumni. Volunteers are asked to give one to two hours of their time a week if volunteering at schools and two to three hours a week at hospitals, and orientations occur once a month.
“Some of them choose to go back to the school they came from. Some volunteers choose close to here since it’s close to their classes. We let them pick which one,” Nichols said.
Education senior Angela Nguyen said she loves the idea.
“I love that UH has this. I never knew about this program before, but I definitely want to join. I’m going to get my sisters involved as well,” Nguyen said. “I’ve had a vast experience babysitting and with the Fort Bend School District teaching kids, but I feel volunteering has a very different approach, one that tends to be more personal.”
Education senior Carlos Benito agrees.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Benito said. “Kids are at the stage where they are easily influenced. It’s important for them to have good role models or a good support system of people who believe in them. I find their future success correlates with upbringing.”
To find out more information about Cougars for Kids, visit its website.