Stephen Dages, a University of Mount Union junior from Green, was recently awarded $2,140 in grant money toward his program "Mount Mentors" at the United Way Young Leaders Society’s (YLS) Stark SOUP event.

Mount Mentors, a collaboration with Pathway Caring for Children, brings a group of foster children to Mount Union’s campus bi-monthly to work with student mentors during the school year.

Dages, a religious studies and school social work double major, came up with the idea as a Regula Scholar through the Ralph and Mary Regula Center for Public Service and Civic Engagement. Regula Scholars earn a stipend of money they use to benefit the community in some way.

"I was driving to campus one day and was thinking about what I should use my stipend toward, and in the middle of the thought, I looked up at saw a billboard about Stark County Jobs and Family Services," Dages said in a news release. "I went home and looked on the website and came across the page that has the profiles of all the foster kids waiting to be adopted. I knew right away that those foster kids were the population that I wanted to serve with my stipend, and that’s when my passion for these kids began."

The YLS Stark SOUP event, which takes place three times each year, awards a micro-grant to a Stark County community project focused on health, education or financial stability.

Dages competed against three other finalists at Stark SOUP, and he hopes that his idea can become a sustainable program on Mount Union’s campus.

"The Regula Center doesn’t have the budget to fund my program from a year to year basis, so I needed to find funding for next year if I wanted Mount Mentors to continue," Dages said in a news release. "Now that I have the funds for next year, I am confident Mount Mentors will become an established program at the University."

For more information about Stark SOUP, visit uwstark.org/StarkSOUP. More information on the Regula Center can be found at mountunion.edu/the-regula-center-for-public-service.