Monday, December 14, 2009

UIS students build positive relationships while mentoring at Harvard Park Elementary



A group of UIS students pulled out board games of all kinds in the Harvard Park Elementary School gymnasium on Friday morning and quickly paired up with their “Littles” to play.

The group is part of the mentoring program that UIS has in conjunction with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Illinois Capital Region that takes UIS volunteers to several elementary schools in the area once a week to interact with some of the children at the schools.

The program is mutually beneficial for both the elementary-aged students and the UIS students, said Harvard Park Principal Kim Leverette. She said she hopes that the relationships built with college-aged students will inspire the students at Harvard Park to continue their education.

“For many of our students, their background and the homes that they come from, that dream isn’t instilled in them of pursuing higher education,” Leverette said. “So this viewpoint is very instrumental in our kids turning their attitudes around and turning their grades around.”

“It may inspire UIS students to be education majors as well,” she added. “So while it impacts our students, it also greatly impacts students from UIS as well.”

Mark Frakes, a sophomore at UIS, enjoys playing cards games like Uno with his “Little” at Harvard Park.

“He’s pretty good; he beats me a lot,” Frakes smiled.

Frakes has been mentoring for more than a year at Harvard Park through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and has been able to see firsthand how beneficial his involvement is in the life of his Little.

“This gives kids a chance to talk out some of their issues and have a positive older role model because some of these kids don’t have that sort of support system,” he said. “I like coming here to hang out with him. When he has fun, I have fun.”

“I think I’m just as excited to come here and hang out as (my Little),” agreed senior Zach Berillo with a laugh.

UIS freshman April Fountain’s Little doesn’t have a brother or “anyone his age to sit down and play with him,” she said, and he looks forward to the one-on-one time with Fountain.

“He enjoys this every Friday. I think he gets a lot out of it,” she said.

Leverette hopes the program will continue to flourish and even to grow.

“The feedback I receive from the community, from the staff, from the parents is something that we want to build on and nurture, and we want all of those great things to continue,” she said.

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