Site Spotlight: Bridge Academy (written and coordinated by Grace D'Antuono)

Bridge Academy, is an alternative high school to benefit teens who are dealing with drug, mental health or behavioral issues that prevent them from thriving in a standard high school environment. Many have varying backgrounds; some formerly incarcerated, some are mothers, and others are fighting mental illness. Some of these tribulations may have gotten in the way of their attendance at their public high school, but after ten consecutive days of absence, the Manchester School Department prohibits students from returning to classes (Board of Schools Committee). This policy provides no mercy and narrows the chance of success tremendously. However, by taking individualized classes at Bridge Academy, students are given the opportunity to earn their high school diploma.

IMG_3599The program started towards the beginning of the fall semester of 2016, and when I was told I was going to be in charge of it I didn’t know what to expect. As any other volunteer, I knew I would be working as a teacher’s assistant, something I had done before, but never like this. The first time I went to the school I was unsure if I would be able to handle this new situation. I was intimidated by the idea of working with the unknown. I was afraid that they wouldn’t like me. I was nervous to be out of my comfort zone. Most of all, I was scared by the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to make connections with any students because our backgrounds are so different.

After attending a few classes there, I realized the reasons that I was afraid are the very same reasons I belonged there. We were each venturing outside of our comfort zones, and working towards a better future. I became outraged that a policy as unforgiving as that of the Manchester School Department exists, knowledgeable of lives separate of my own, and a better person because of my experience volunteering there.

At Bridge Academy, the students take lessons in math and English, while I learn from their resilience and hope.

To further your learning outside of the Saint A’s classroom contact Grace D’Antuono at gdantuono@anselm.edu

Site Spotlight: Girls Inc. (Coordinated by Jacqueline Talbot and Gillian Kayo)

According to their website, Girls Inc. "inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold through direct service and advocacy."  Girls Inc. is an after school and dinner program that provides girls aged 5-15 from mostly low income, impoverished, or broken homes a safe, positive, and empowering environment. With Girls Inc.’s mission in mind, Meelia site coordinators Jacqueline Talbot and Gillian Kayo hope to instill this mentality in their own lives and in the lives of their volunteers.

girls incorpJacqueline provided some insight into what volunteers can expect in a typical semester at Girls Inc.:

"Volunteers go to the site to provide a positive role model for the girls. They hang out with them, play games, or help with homework. The girls rely on the volunteers coming each week and get super excited whenever volunteers arrive. A lot of volunteers are able to create bonds with the girls which makes going even more impactful."

Girls Inc. also puts on annual events for the girls, usually for the holidays. Jacqueline adds that "the parties are a lot of fun and included face painting, crafts, and other activities. These are great for the girls because it breaks up their regular daily routine and provides them with excitement."

Aside from events that Girls Inc. plans, the Meelia Center works with various other organizations at Saint Anselm College to fundraise for the girls. Last year, according to Jacqueline, they "also worked with Campus Ministry, and were able to get all the girls a pair of sneakers for Christmas through the giving tree, which was amazing."

If you are interested in volunteering with Girls Inc., please contact either Jacqueline Talbot (jtalbot@anselm.edu) or Gillian Kayo (gkayo@anselm.edu).

 

Site Spotlight: YMCA Strive by Hailey Droogan '19

Every twenty six seconds a teenager makes the choice to drop out of high school, and thus gives up on their education (nces.ed.gov). Why is this statistic so high? Why are students dropping out so often? High school is hard and teenagers can be cruel, but all of us got through it. Why can’t everyone else?

ymcaManchester Public Schools serve a large and diverse student population. Although 60% of students are White-Non Hispanic, there is a large Hispanic and African American population, and all together this school district represents just shy of 14,000 students (education.nh.gov). Despite serving so many students, the district is underfunded and understaffed. In a school comprised of a multitude of students and not enough staff, there are students that are forgotten about—students who others assume won’t amount to much, students who are perceived to lack the bright future many of us were guaranteed.

There is nothing concrete that makes these students different than others; their education must also be valued. These students simply need extra guidance and support, which they often cannot find within the school system. These students need a mentor like you, a college student who they can relate to and someone that understands the struggles of high school. Someone that inspires the students to ask: “If they can do it, why can’t I?”

IMG_3322The YMCA in Manchester offers a program called STRIVE, which serves and supports students that have been recently suspended or expelled. The program provides an academic environment to complete necessary course work along with life skills classes to better their daily lives. As a volunteer at STRIVE, you may have a role as a tutor, but you are not just someone that helps students with their homework. You become a mentor and a friend to these students. You become a role model.

Education is a right, not a privilege. No student deserves to be underrepresented in the school system, but everyone deserves the support provided by YMCA STRIVE. If you want to get involved and make an impact, please contact me at hdroogan@anselm.edu.