Abbie Hunt Contributing Writer
Sophomore Kolby Boulgier and Freshman Brenna Saucier are replacing their exams in PSY 235: Introduction to Counseling with the experience of mentoring elementary school students. Boulgier is mentoring a young girl through the Lunch Buddy program and at W.G. Mallett Elementary School once a week and Saucier is taking a different route and mentoring a little boy at the pool every week.
Dan Seabold, a professor of psychology and the Intro to Counseling class instructor, encourages students to use volunteering in the Mount Blue School system as an opportunity to practice the skills they are learning in class. “I have always believed that it’s important for students to gain professional experience,” he said. “We can’t build confidence without real experience.”
Seabold allows students to use their mentoring experience as a grade booster or extra credit. “[Students] can use the grade from this to replace an exam,” he said.
He believes that the application of working with real people is more beneficial than just remembering information for a test. “Application helps with retaining skills and knowledge,” he said. He requires students who are choosing to mentor a student through a program such as the Lunch Buddies to keep a reflection journal on their own insights and questions.
Not only is this helping psychology students gain real life experience, they are making a difference in a child’s life in addition to helping them grow. “It gives these kids a sense of self-esteem and value,” Seabold said. “It gives them developmental assistance in a non-threatening way,”
Seabold sees the impact of this mentorship in the way the kids look forward to meeting with their mentors. “They want their mentor,” he said. It makes other students who do not have a mentor also want one.
When Boulgier first heard that participating in the Lunch Buddy program could be an exam replacement, she applied to be a Lunch Buddy through the Mallett Elementary School. “I didn’t hear [back] for four weeks,” she said. “I was very nervous I would have to take an exam.”
Boulgier laughed and put her hands to her face as she explained her first encounter with a group of elementary school teachers. “I went to the second floor and instead of turning right, I went straight,” she said. “I walked past a room full of teachers.” She ended up having to interrupt a meeting to ask for directions to her buddy’s classroom.
When Boulgier finally met the student she would be mentoring, there was an instant liking to one another. “She’s adorable,” she said. “She’s like me when I was a kid.”
After the introductions, Boulgier and her buddy set out for the cafeteria to eat lunch, where they met more enthusiastic and eager Mallett students. “They were telling stories to me non-stop,” Boulgier said. “They were so excited and they kept talking about Minecraft.”
At recess, the young girl led Boulgier around the playground to show her the slides and monkey bars. “You’re making bonds with kids, and they’re going to tell you everything,” Boulgier said.
Instead of mentoring a student through the Lunch Buddy program, Saucier got permission to work with a young boy taking swimming lessons at the pool because it fit into her schedule better, and as she already a certified Water Safety Instructor. “It is very nice to take an hour a week and just separate from the world to work with a kid,” she said in an email interview. “He and his parents were some of my favorite people so they wanted to continue lessons and then we coordinated doing this project. He is one of the cutest kids I know.”
Saucier wants to be a good influence on the boy, and she appreciates watching him gain more confidence as she works with him on different skills. “He is super sweet and is so active. He is always happy and can always make himself laugh and I am fascinated by him,” she said.
To become a Lunch Buddy and learn more about the program, go to http://getconnected.volunteermaine.org/agency/detail/?agency_id=56936.