Students Adopt Local Middle School
For some local middle
school students, it’s the first
time they’ve ever worked with a college student.
When several Lamont House residents head to John F. Kennedy
Middle School in Northampton each week to assist teachers
there in a variety of activities, they provide an example
of academic focus and success that the younger students can
emulate. The Smith students work with JFK students on writing
projects, classroom work, and on extra-curricular activities
in the after-school enrichment program.
The program began last
year when residents of Lamont House “adopted” John
F. Kennedy Middle School as a place to conduct community
service. Working through the Office of Educational Outreach,
the students formed a partnership with the school in which
they are matched with teachers in their areas of interest.
Several students resumed the partnership this year.
“These college students become mentors to our kids,” said
Kathleen McKenna, the retired chair of the middle school’s
guidance department, who acts as a liaison between the school
and the Smith program. “Our students form a connection
with the college students and develop a sense of trust with
them. They get excited about learning when they get to know
the Smith students. And if they’re excited about learning,
then their achievement will follow.”
The partnership with JFK
Middle School is a response to a request from Leslie Wilson,
the principal of JFK, to bring more students to her school,
explained Gail Scordilis, director of educational outreach.
It follows recent efforts by Doug Winsor, partnership and
outreach coordinator in the Office of Educational Outreach,
to increase and deepen interactions among Smith students,
faculty and staff with students and staff in Northampton’s
For the Smith student volunteers, the program reminds them
of their own middle school years, not so far removed.
“I've really gained a lot from my experience at JFK
because I was able to remember what middle school was like
for me and try to carry that over and help others,” said
Sara Bolduc ’08, who volunteered with the program last
year and is participating again this year. “The students
really seemed to value someone listening to them and taking
an interest in what they were doing.”
“I think we were able
to be role models for the JFK students,” said Kathryn
Freeman ’10, who is also participating in the program for
the second year. “Thinking
back on my middle school years I would have loved to have
had someone a little older to talk to about how I was feeling
or what I was doing.”
Before being matched with teachers as their assistants,
the Lamont residents completed questionnaires designating
their areas of knowledge and skills, such as writing, reading,
math, science, engineering and history, McKenna said. She
then partnered JFK teachers with students who had corresponding
interests to their subject areas.
And though the participating Lamonters assist in the classroom,
their volunteer work extends beyond schoolbooks.
“Last year I helped in an English classroom during
the day and in the baking after-school program,” recalls
Bolduc, who is considering teaching as a profession after
Smith. “It was very interesting to be able to work
with the children during the day as well as after school,
when the ‘rules’ didn’t apply to them anymore.
After school, the students really liked to be in charge of
their kitchen areas and were always willing to share their
yummy baked goodies with us!”
By all accounts, the Smith-JFK partnership has been a success,
attracting more students to join as volunteers assisting
at the middle school this year and growing beyond Lamont
with residents of Capen House and three groups of engineering
“This is an incredible
opportunity for a college student to give back to the surrounding
community,” said Freeman. “Working
with younger students is fun and educational.”
Mostly, it’s the students’ presence and the
example they set that makes a difference in the JFK students’ lives,
say those familiar with the partnership.
“One science teacher [at JFK] said the Smith student
she worked with had transformed her class,” said Scordilis.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for students at JFK,” said
McKenna. “Students at JFK will be more likely to succeed
by working alongside Smith students.”