Student Mentors Inmates at Local Correctional Facility

By Caitlin Mack ’12 (T5)
Univ. Communications

As a participant in the 2012-2013 Meliora Leaders program, Kelly Scull ’14 is making a difference as a mentor at the Monroe County Correctional Facility. Scull’s program, “Loss to Success,” gives women a sense of hope and direction in dealing with issues like loss of money, job, and home as a result of being incarcerated.

Scull is one of five Meliora Leaders that participates in community service initiatives through the Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL) at the University of Rochester. Meliora Leaders create individualized service projects, allowing them to exercise intensive leadership in the Rochester community for an extended period of time. The program benefits organizations and individuals in need while providing a substantial learning experience for the students involved.

“My goal with this program is to empower at least one woman,” says Scull. “We talk about the effects of loss in their lives, but also about goal-setting.”

The New Hope, Pa., native was inspired to create ”Loss to Success” after participating in “Yes Pa,” a program offered through UR’s St. Sebastian’s Society in which college students read a book with inmates.

Scull visits the correctional facility three times a week, usually to meet with female inmates. Topics discussed range from addiction to education, and Scull often sparks discussion with an article. Other days, Scull observes groups that deal with issues like addiction and trauma to get a better understanding of how she can be a good leader and mentor.

For Scull, the most difficult thing about the program has been gaining the trust of the women she mentors.  Most of the women Scull has talked to are usually older than her, between the ages of 25 and 50, and have experienced trouble with drugs and prostitution, among other difficult life experiences. However, Scull found that once she gained their trust, she was able to learn some incredible stories.

Scull says about five women come regularly to her discussions, where she finds that just “having someone they can trust talking to” can make an impact. “You get close with these women and you feel for them,” says Scull. “They’re not bad people; they’ve just made some bad decisions.”

Scull double majors in business and political science and also is interested in psychology and teaching. In addition to being a Meliora Leader, she is president of Sigma Delta Tau, a teaching assistant for economics and political science classes, and plays varsity women’s basketball.

“I really enjoy helping them and it’s my way to give back,” says Scull. “Just getting told ‘thank you’… it’s something I enjoy doing.”

This article is part four of a series that features the Meliora Leaders of 2012-2013. Undergraduates interested in participating in the program should look for information on the RCCL page in the coming months. Information about the program can be found on the RCCL page athttp://rochester.edu/college/rccl/meliora.html.

Program Inspires Rochester Student to ‘Pay It Forward’

By Joseph Bailey ’15
Univ. Communications

When asked why she’s here at the University of Rochester today, Abigail Gonzalez ’16 will most likely reply that were it not for New Pathways for Youth she’d probably still be back in her hometown, Phoenix, Ariz.  It’s because of programs like this that troubled youths can beat the odds and attend institutions of higher learning like Rochester.  Gonzalez comes from a family of modest means, and throughout junior high and high school depended on the counsel of her mentor, Ellen Dean, assigned by the program. Dean would help her with homework, career searching, and networking.  A poster child for the program’s success, Gonzalez was invited to return to Phoenix in February to serve as a guest speaker at the organization’s annual breakfast.

The program has undergone several name changes in the time Gonzalez has been involved in it, both as a mentee and as a returning alumna. First, it was called Arizona Quest for Kids, was later named Phoenix Youth at Risk, until program administrators settled on New Pathways for Youth, taking out the word “risk” altogether.

It’s programs like New Pathways for Youth that allow bright young minds like Gonzalez to flourish and do real good in the world. Like many students at Rochester, she came in with the mindset of becoming a doctor, but also like many students, came to the realization that pre-med was not for her. Now a business major, she has aspirations to begin a foundation. Right now, she enjoys the small, personal, diverse environment of the U of R. Her favorite class is Spanish. She feels that in spite of her Latino heritage, she never really learned to read and write Spanish well, and now she has an excellent opportunity to change that. Gonzalez participates in several undergraduate councils, including SUBS and MAPS, and is an active member of PAWS. Around campus, you might run into her working at the counter at Hillside Market.

When Gonzalez returned to Phoenix, she represented both the University of Rochester and the influential program that got her here. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to learn that in 10 or 20 years, she has established a new foundation for troubled youth, coming full circle from being on the verge of trouble herself.

Oladoyin Oladeru ’13 Leads Nonviolence Program for Middle Schoolers

By Caitlin Mack ’12 (T5)
Univ. Communications

Last year, Oladoyin Oladeru ’13 mentored middle school students about the benefits of nonviolence during in-school suspension hours and decided he wanted to create an after school program of a similar nature.  With help from the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence and fellow University of Rochester undergraduates, Oladeru established the Young Men at Peace program last fall.  The program allows 6th, 7th, and 8th grade male students at Dr. Charles Lunsford School #19 the unique opportunity to explore a wide range of important issues related to nonviolence.

Oladeru is one of five students chosen to be a 2012-20130 Meliora Leader, a new community service initiative through the Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL). Meliora Leaders create individualized service projects, allowing them to exercise intensive leadership in the Rochester community for an extended period of time. The program benefits organizations and individuals in need while providing a substantial learning experience for the students involved.

The topics addressed in Young Men at Peace are meant to inform the middle schoolers about the power of nonviolent self-transformation to overcome physical and mental obstacles. This includes awareness of positive lifestyle choices and social interactions, how to become better advocates against community and school violence, and learning about social justice heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi.

In addition to Oladeru, other Young Men at Peace undergraduate mentors include Milan Byrdwell ’14, Reginald Hooks ’15, Shaquill McCullers ’14, Michael Mobarak ’15, Carl Parker ’13, and Taurean Parker ’13. All six undergraduates, whom Oladeru gathered before the start of the program last fall, serve as a source of inspiration for the students.

“We want to make the dream of obtaining a college education more attainable by showing them young men from the U of R who are living proof,” says Oladeru.

George Payne, who works at the Gandhi Institute as a Peace and Justice Educator and helps oversee the program, applauds Oladeru’s “vision and dedication,” for allowing the students involved to form “meaningful bonds with mentors in college who know about their challenges and believe in their potential.”  Echoing Payne’s praise is Principal Eva Thomas, who has called the Young Men at Peace program a “blessing” to her school.

Oladeru exercises his own life experiences while serving as a nonviolence ambassador to the young males of School # 19.  Oladeru moved from Lagos, Nigeria to the United States when he was nine years old and lived in the Bronx until college.  Around the age of the students he now mentors, Oladeru was bullied for being foreign, African, and studious. A personal “turning point” that alerted him to the importance of nonviolence occurred in 6th grade when his friend got shot on his way home after school.

“Mentorship is really important, especially at a young age,” says Oladeru. “I remember giving into peer pressure when I came to this country and I think this is an issue most prevalent with young males at that age.  It’s not enough to have two parents at home because they can’t relate and there’s only so much they can understand.”

Oladeru, who is set to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in epidemiology this May, is a McNair Scholar, a Ronald McDonald scholar, a Gilman Scholar, and a Gates Millennium Scholar.  In addition to being a Meliora Leader, he works at Carlson Library and is a Resident Advisor.  He hopes to get a master’s and doctoral degree in epidemiology and conduct population-based research in cardiovascular disease.

Oladeru has high hopes for the future of the program because the young male participants have noticeably progressed as a result of the efforts of Oladeru, his fellow UR mentors, and the Gandhi Institute.  The number of attendees has been steadily increasing and Oladeru aims for a total of 15 boys that come on a regular basis. He also hopes to plan field trips to the U of R campus, Foodlink, and Darien Lake to teach them about rules in different social settings and inspire them to be respectful no matter where you are.

“To see someone with a similar background having made it goes a long way,” says Oladeru. “The greatest joy for me is that I got people interested in volunteering who really care. We go back every week and it makes a difference.”

This article is part two of a series that features the Meliora Leaders of 2012-2013. Undergraduates interested in participating in the program should look for information on the RCCL page in the coming months. Information about the program can be found on the RCCL page at http://rochester.edu/college/rccl/meliora.html.

In the photos: Photo 1: Oladoyin Oladeru with one of the young men in his program. Photo 2: Oladoyin Oladeru and a group of University of Rochester undergraduate mentors teach male students from Dr. Charles Lunsford School #19 about the benefits of nonviolence.

Event Brings RCSD Students to Rochester’s Campus

Univ. Communications – Last week, University of Rochester students who volunteer Partners in Reading (PiR) hosted nearly 50 sixth graders from John James Audubon Elementary School No. 33 and Dr. Charles T. Lunsford School No. 19 on campus during the 3rd annual College Counts program.

Through the group’s two main branches, Project REACH and Project CARE, undergraduates involved in PiR spend the academic year visiting School No. 33 and No. 19 on a weekly basis, tutoring and mentoring students in kindergarten through sixth grade,.

Project REACH volunteers head to School No. 33 and are assigned and committed to one classroom each semester. During the year, PiR members offer assistance to teachers, provide individual tutoring, or facilitate group activities for the kids. Project CARE, the newest addition of PiR, has a partnership with School No. 19 and focuses on children grades K-2 and 5-7. PiR members provide individual tutoring for students two hours a week, often on multiple subjects. Through both branches, the end result is the same: students build long-term relationships with teachers and children and work to establish themselves as positive role models for the kids in their classroom.

Each spring, as the year comes to a close, members of PiR invite the school’s sixth graders to the River Campus for the College Counts program, which aims to give students a taste of college life.

Beginning with a tour of the River Campus, students spent the day meeting with undergraduates and professors. The sixth graders met with Thomas R. Krugh, professor of chemistry, who conducted a variety of demonstrations that explained different science concepts. Activities also included lunch at Danforth Dining Hall and performances by a cappella group the Midnight Ramblers and dance group UR Bhangra.

The event was sponsored by Partners in Reading, the Community Service Network, and the Rochester Center for Community Leadership.

Article written by Melissa Greco Lopes, editor of The Buzz and student life publicist in University Communications.

Photo courtesy of Maya Dukmasova.