We are coming up on our last few weeks working with the kids at UMFS. Every week my classmates and i have been carpooling to the campus and working in their studio, but this week the students got to come to VCU campus and see what it’s like in our environment.
As my classmates and i waited for the students to arrive we were all really excited and came up with a game plan for the tour, since the students would only be with us for a short time. After vehicle mix-ups and a knocked down clearance sign, the students finally arrived.
The students got to see the student commons filled with college students socializing and hanging out at the campus eateries. we showed them the library and dinning hall, which some of them were amazed at how big they were. For most of the students it was their first time visiting VCU, or any college campus in general so it was a great experience for them to get to see what college is like,
Even though it was a chilly day, the students were still very excited. A few of the girls even bombarded me with questions about parties and boys on campus, which I of course didn’t answer, but it was really nice seeing them taking interest and wanting to know what it’s like to be a college student. One student even sparked up a conversation about how she wanted to go to college and was considering VCU.
At the end of our tour we showed them the insight studio which was the most fun for all of them. They took turns sitting in the anchor chairs and taking pictures. Two of the students in particular really got into it and pretended to be anchors. Seeing them interact with each other and have so much fun was the best part for me. Although by this point I have gotten to know them pretty well and their compliance was much better, for some reason a small part of me was expecting that to go out of the window since they weren’t on their own campus. I am so proud of all of the students and how much progress they have made since the first day I met them.
Over the past few weeks the students have been working on packages on the circle of courage, which is a four part program implemented at UMFS that helps guide students through UMFS’s larger program and transition them into the mainstream . The students hadn’t finished shooting their interviews or b-roll so we split into four groups mastery, belonging, generosity, and independence and set off on UMFS’s campus to shoot.
My group’s topic was belonging, which focuses on the students feeling connected and having a sense of being a part of a community in some way. That could be through school, church, a club or anything of that nature. We interviewed a student in the program who talked about how UMFS has helped her feel like she belonged. At school she didn’t feel think she fit in and was more prone to people who were bad influences because they made her feel like she belonged even though they didn’t have her best interest in mind . UMFS taught her how to fit in with more positive people and avoid those bad influences. I was really surprised at how well the interview went. One of the shyer students conducted the interview and she did a really great job asking questions and making herself and the young lady we interviewed comfortable.
After the interview we shot b-roll around the campus. This is when I noticed one of the students in particular really shine. She thoroughly enjoyed working with the camera and coming up with ideas for b-roll. That’s when it clicked to my classmates and I that she was much more productive when we gave her a task and just let her do her own thing from there. I still shadowed her just to show her I was interested in when she was doing, but still gave her free reigns to shoot whatever she wanted. She enjoyed sharing her ideas with me and we even shared a few laughs. It was really nice to see her have personal moments some of my classmates and I. I definitely think we have made a breakthrough with her.
The day out working in the field seemed to be good for every group. We all had fun and mostly positive responses from all of the students. Being outside of the classroom put everyone in a more relaxed mood and enabled us to interact more freely with each other.
The teenage years are some of the hardest, yet most important times of a person’s life developmentally. The decisions someone makes as a teenager can set the script for their entire life. This is when risky behavior like joining gangs, committing crimes, doing drugs and many other behaviors that often carry over to their adult life begins. It’s important to break those patters early and also make sure the child has positive influences.
Big Brother Big Sister of America caters to at risk youth by pairing them with an adult mentor to help influence positive behaviors and high academic achievement. Big Brother Big Sister is ranked as one of the top mentoring programs in the country and has been serving children ages 6-18 for over one hundred years. The program focuses on one-on-one mentoring so every child has their own volunteer “Big” specially chosen for them. Big Brother Big Sister’s goal is the achieve not only higher educational success and lower risky behavior, but they also strive to improve self-confidence which is something I think the video mentoring program at UMFS does a great job of. A big reason for children acting out because of low self-confidence. Once students realize that they have the ability to do anything they put their mind to, they start to want to learn and approach situations with a much more positive attitude.
Big Brother also gives youth role models. They encourage positive behavior and also serve as a great example of where that child could be if they chose to follow the right path. Although our video mentoring class is not a one-on-one program, the mentor to student ratio is high, so students are still able to get personalized attention and help. We have learned which students work best with us and have adjusted accordingly. I think this is really beneficial because this is creating a bond. The students are responding to our positive influence better and wanting to set higher goals for themselves. Some of the students truly do look up to us and I think they are starting to aspire to achieve greater things in life.