Congratulations to the Lynch School of Education at Boston College for being rewarded a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation! This grant will “engage low-income high school students in a science and emerging agricultural technology project, designed to guide them in conducting scientific research and prepare them for post-secondary scientific study.” This project, called the “Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers,” will involve 30 Boston public school students from populations that are underrepresented in science.
This project will help prepare students for post-secondary education and will give them the opportunity to fulfill future career aspirations. Lynch School Professor of Science Education, Michael Barnett, notes “This program will build on the capacity of our youth participants to make potential scientific discoveries, as well as develop youth leaders who will become role models in their community through mentorship.”
College of the Holy Cross is implementing an innovative social justice project called “Holy Ballers.” The “ballers-model” is a project focused on “peer-to-peer mentorship of residents within the juvenile detention system. The goals of the program include reducing the recidivism rate and showing residents that they are valuable to society and their future is not determined by their past mistakes.” The “ballers-model” began at John Carroll University, and sophomore political science major Riley Benner brought this model to Holy Cross.
Benner introduced the model to his high school and knew that when he arrived at college he wanted to start a chapter there as well. When Benner approached Marty Kelly, associate chaplain and adviser to Student Programs for Urban Development, he was nothing short of excited. After the program was launched, Holy Cross students took great interest and Benner recruited 15 volunteers through a rigorous application process.
Three days a week, six Holy Cross students visit the juvenile detention center in Worcester to play basketball with residents. They then share a meal together and simply talk. Benner explains, “We’re not there to serve the boys; we’re not there to teach them what it means to be a good citizen, or to lecture them on the classifications of a Massachusetts felony. We’re there simply to be together, to be one. We don’t hold a bar up and ask any of them to measure up; we simply show up. And we tell them the truth. The truth that they are exactly what God had in mind when God made them. And we watch as they become that truth.”
To read more about Holy Ballers, visit Holy Cross news.
Many graduates who have achieved success are looking to give back. The University of Dayton’s Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) offers an Alumni Engagement Program that connects alumni with current students who are of diverse backgrounds, helping boost student retention and persistence. The program cultivates opportunities for graduates to provide mentorship and other forms of support, while identifying students who would benefit from alumni guidance. Alumni provide support for current undergraduate students in a variety of ways such as as a resource to empower students in their major or field of interest, participating in ongoing programming through OMA, writing a letter of encouragement, or sponsoring a student’s textbooks through the Diverse Students Population fund.
Over the next few weeks, we will release short examples of diversity at Catholic institutions of higher education as part of a series called “Inclusion on Campus”. Stay tuned to hear how Catholic institutions are promoting diversity as an expression of God’s grandeur!
Catholic colleges and universities strive to form students, staff, and faculty as leaders who are dedicated to serving their neighbors and working together to promote the common good. In Ex corde Ecclesiae, Pope St. John Paul II writes that one of the four “essential characteristics” of a Catholic university is that it has “an institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family.” Catholic higher education has made a commitment to serving the community both locally and internationally: In 2013, 50 percent of ACCU member institutions were named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, highlighting these campuses as having “[achieved] meaningful, measureable outcomes in the communities they serve.” These campuses are recognized as pursuing a meaningful institutional commitment to serving their neighbors. To put this in perspective, this means that over 100 Catholic colleges and universities were recognized for service to their local communities.
Catholic Social Teaching and Youth Mentorship
Such achievements answer a call for Catholic institutions to serve the human family, with a special emphasis on service to the poor. In its pastoral letter “Economic Justice for All,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) writes, “The prime purpose of this special commitment to the poor is to enable them to become active participants in the life of society. […] It states that the deprivation and powerlessness of the poor wounds the whole community.” Both domestically and internationally, youth can be the most deprived and powerless members of any given community. As such, students at numerous Catholic colleges and universities strive to work for the common good and serve the community through programs that focus on youth mentorship and education.
Youth Mentorship in Catholic Higher Education
Ursuline College in Ohio is an outstanding example of a successful youth mentorship program. ARROWS (Academic Readiness Requires Outstanding Work and Support) “intends to provide Ursuline College students an opportunity to mentor [local] high school students,” the College explains in a news article, “while offering the high school students support through the completion of high school, and encouragement to pursue postsecondary education.” As Ursuline is an all-female college, the coordinators of ARROWS decided to offer the program exclusively to local high school girls. The effect on both mentees and mentors is profound.
Ursuline College student mentor Eadaoin Cronin highlights the meaning of the program to both the mentees and the mentors, saying “It’s great how we are paired up with a Warrensville Heights [student] and we get to see them develop into successful young women. We meet with the students around six times per year. During each visit, we talk with our mentees and we monitor their progress.” Cronin added, “The mentors and mentees set goals at the beginning of the year and it’s extremely satisfying when the students reach those goals. …Many of the mentees aspire to attend college and it is our duty to help them achieve this milestone.”
ARROWS clearly fosters a culture of encounter among both Ursuline students and Warrensville Heights students.Through the process of working with the Ursuline students, the mentees learn to take control of their education and thus are empowered to achieve their personal, academic, and career goals. To both cohorts, the program offers an avenue to grow and develop academically, spiritually, and personally.
Another example of an exceptional youth mentorship program is Fun, Fit, Fridays at Barry University in Miami, Florida, geared toward local elementary school students. Located a quarter-mile from the Barry University campus, Hubert O. Sibley Elementary School has been participating in Fun, Fit, Fridays since 2009.
According to Andy Havens, the director of Fun, Fit, Fridays and intramural coordinator for the Barry University Department of Campus Recreation and Wellness, the Sibley Elementary School mentees are nominated by their teachers as students who could benefit from mentoring, and are often students with academic or behavioral challenges. These students then spend their Friday afternoons in character-building lessons, physical education activities, creative expression through fine and performing arts, campus tours, homework help, and more, all led by Barry students, staff, and faculty. At the end of each session, the participants take time to reflect on that day’s experience through journaling and sharing their experiences with their parents and guardians.
Dr. Darlene Kluka, dean of Barry University’s School of Performance and Leisure Sciences, shared how Fun, Fit, Fridays is an example of how the university’s mission is lived: “We believe at Barry that learning leads to knowledge and truth, and that reflection leads to informed action. …We also have a commitment to social justice, and that leads to collaborative service.”
In addition to these four ideals – knowledge, truth, social justice, and collaborative service – Kluka included “inclusive community” to round out Barry’s five “core commitments.” Fun, Fit, Fridays has developed into a program that comprises each of these five commitments. By assisting participants with academics and etiquette, the program seeks to foster in Sibley students a thirst for knowledge and truth. Havens and Kluka hope this will inspire Barry University students to learn how to more effectively participate in their communities by staying abreast of and involved in current and future social justice and service initiatives. In this way, the dean added, Fun, Fit, Fridays looks to create “opportunities for us to be doing God’s work,” by living out the call to work for the common good of the community.
ARROWS and Fun, Fit, Fridays demonstrate how Catholic higher education serves the youth of local communities. ARROWS seeks to empower young women through academic preparedness and support for entering higher education. Fun, Fit, Fridays provides an opportunity for students to combine their love of sport with their love for their neighbors through education and companionship. By living the call to create a culture of encounter and solidarity between youth and young adults, as well as building a stronger local community, Ursuline College and Barry University exemplify the institutional commitment of Catholic higher education to serve their neighbors.
Justine Worden is an undergraduate student at Georgetown University and the Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.