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Waterbury student volunteers help out
in inner city schools
December 15, 1997
Walking through the halls of West Side Middle School in Waterbury always brings back memories for Andrea Lund. It was no different this November when Lund, a student at the Waterbury Campus who graduated from West Side's eighth grade in 1992, returned to the school as a volunteer for the Inner City Cultural Enrichment Program that is run by the UConn campus.
A veteran of the program, Lund decided to volunteer again once a week after spending the 1996 academic year with first graders at Driggs Elementary School in Waterbury."The kids treated me like I was a star," she says, "like Michael Jordan or something. It was great but ... I wanted an opportunity to work with older kids."
That is because the sophomore wants to be a teacher."Volunteering through the program would give me a head start to see if I like teaching and if I didn't I could change my major," says Lund, who is one of 26 volunteers.
The program, now in its fifth year, enables college students to go into several local public schools to work on projects with students, says Susan Frome, university specialist and head of the program. The students team up with their younger peers for activities like building a model space rocket to learn how it works or creating a literary magazine.
"College students are great role models for these kids," says Frome, "because they are not a teacher, they are not an adult, parent or baby sitter. They are a little bit like an older brother or sister who would take an interest in them and want to help them."
Colleen O'Hare, a senior at Wilby High School in Waterbury, says she and her classmates in creative writing look forward to Fridays when Don Forrester, a UConn volunteer, comes in.
"He helped me out with a couple of my poems," O'Hare says."He gave me the positive reinforcement I needed to apply for poetry contests."
O'Hare, who just placed fifth in such a contest, has also nearly completed a novel. She credits Forrester with helping her develop a series of events for the end of the book.
The program tries to encourage young people to make positive choices, such as staying in school, Frome says.
Lund believes the program has made a difference in some of the young people's lives.
"The program has emphasized to students to be a leader not a follower," she says."We try to stress to them to be independent and to make decisions that will benefit them not their friends."