Community engagement: IU Southeast students serve up free tutoring and mentoring (and donuts) to local youth

13th March 2019
IU Southeast students Ericia Henry and Breanna Seabolt discuss bullying with middle school girls in New Albany, Ind..

IU Southeast students Ericia Henry and Breanna Seabolt conduct a workshop on bullying with middle school girls in New Albany, Ind.

By Steven Krolak

(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—IU Southeast’s Office of Community Engagement is coordinating a program that provides free tutoring, mentoring and college and career workshops to students in grades six through 12.

Funded by a grant from Indiana Kids, part of the state’s Serve Indiana program, the effort has enrolled some 757 middle and high school students, with more joining all the time. Launched in 2016, it is coordinated by IUPUI’s Office of Community Engagement in partnership with other IU campuses, including IU Southeast.

At IU Southeast, the project is headed by Emily Seay ’12, and staffed by six IU Southeast students. Currently, the team serves 224 youths in our service region.

Not bad for a program that was expecting to enroll about 40 kids!

“As of now we are growing at a rate that even IUPUI has taken notice of, ” Seay said. “Due to our rapid growth they have used our program development in their state reports, have used our ideas for training programs, and are even shadowing us to see if they can replicate our success at their campus,” Seay said.

That success is reflected in the breadth of the effort. The IU Southeast team conducts workshops at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, New Albany High School, Jeffersonville High School and East Washington High School.

They also provide online mentoring to students enrolled at Scribner, Hazelwood, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, River Valley, Parkview, and Rock Creek middle schools, as well as New Albany, East Washington, Clarksville, Jeffersonville and Providence high schools.

In-class presentations feature an effective icebreaker: donuts.

In the “Donuts and Degrees” program for high schoolers, the students discuss college readiness topics such as choosing a major, scholarships, SAT/ACT scores, financial aid, and the pros and cons of attending community college or university.

“Donuts and Discussions” is a workshop for middle school students. Seay and her team address age-relevant topics such as bullying, peer pressure, the importance of grades, and more.

The workshops are held in the classroom during the school day,  so that teachers and administrators don’t need to travel or make special arrangements. Before the interactive sessions begin, there are donuts and drinks for the entire class.

“I really feel that we are making a difference in the community one small step at a time,” Seay said. “I could not be happier with our success thus far.”

That success is rooted firmly in community, according to Dr. Gloria Murray, director of the Office of Community Engagement.

“What is unique about our program is the workshops we provide for the schools, which are based on what the teachers say they want,” Murray said. “At other locations it is usually personnel from the university that do presentations, but here, our college students design and deliver them.”

Chloe Oakes, a junior from Piqua, Ohio majoring in secondary education with a minor in theatre, appreciates being involved in both design and delivery.

“We communicate with the teacher we will be visiting—we discuss their students’ needs, as well as themes that are prevalent in that school’s culture,” Oakes said.

That approach enables students to tailor presentations and activities to address the distinct challenges of individual classes.

That suits Ericia Henry, a sophomore from Louisville, Ky., for whom making a difference is personal. Having learned to overcome obstacles at an early age, she is committed to passing on the tools of success via the mentoring she enjoyed in her own life.

“I had so many mentors help me along my journey, and without them I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” Henry said. “That’s why I believe it’s important that we should continue to pay if forward, one student, one workshop, one program at a time.”

With that in mind, Seay is already recruiting next year’s cohort.

“The most important aspect is the relationship we have built with the schools and that they see Indiana Kids as fulfilling a need they have,” Murray said. “At the same time, our college students are learning about giving back to the community in ways that matter and are important.”

Homepage photo: The first cohort of the Indiana Kids-funded mentoring and tutoring team at IU Southeast includes (standing l-r) Ericia Henry, Sidney Blair, Oshana’e harrell, Lorraine Rudolph, Emily Seay (director) and Chloe Oakes (seated). Not pictured: Breanna Seabolt.

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