ONU students gain valuable experience while mentoring elementary students
A hand-drawn picture, a dodgeball game, story time – all such simple activities, yet to a child, they can communicate an important message: Somebody cares about you.
This is the impact left by Ohio Northern University students on Kenton Elementary Schools students who participate in an after-school youth development program called Club ROAR. For the past two years, Ohio Northern has partnered with Kenton Elementary to run the grant-funded program, and it has been a great opportunity for ONU education students to both hone their skills and realize the true importance of their profession.
Club ROAR takes places after school at Kenton Elementary for 45 minutes two days a week. During each session, elementary students are broken up into groups, or “clubs,” of five to 10 students and spend time doing different activities under the direction of college students. There are a variety of different clubs, including math, sports, art – something for everyone.
ONU students are paid to lead these clubs, but participating in Club ROAR has also been a prime high-impact learning opportunity that helps them understand how to teach and manage a classroom.
I think it’s great experience for our students,” says Penny Gibson, coordinator of partnership development for the ONU Department of Education. “They’re out there basically running a classroom, developing lesson plans, being in charge of their club and making a commitment two days a week.
The outcomes for ONU students have been well worth it. A total of 12 ONU students across multiple disciplines participated in Club ROAR this school year, with two returning for their second year. One student who graduated in December was even hired by Kenton Elementary School as a long-term substitute, in part due to her involvement with Club ROAR.
But as beneficial as the academic aspect of classroom experience is, perhaps the bigger reward for the students is of a more personal nature.
“When we met with all the college students who showed interest, we tried to highlight the fact that it was more than just getting that classroom experience and getting how to be a teacher,” says Andrea Schneider, program coordinator of Club ROAR. “It’s really classroom management, it’s relationship building, it’s how to be a mentor to kids, how to just listen to them and make connections.”
It’s an extracurricular lesson ONU students have really taken to heart. Addison Carter, a junior mathematics major from Delaware, Ohio, is in his second year of Club ROAR. The club he headed was more academic-focused the previous year, but this year he was in charge of a sports club. It really opened his eyes to the real value of the program, which for him is the relationship-building aspect.
I love getting to build those relationships,” he says. “It’s why I want to be a teacher, it’s one of my passions, and it’s what I love to do. I can have that relational impact, so a student can say, ‘I have something after school to look forward to,’ whether home is great or not great.
Having positive role models has been so beneficial to the elementary students, with positive repercussions in multiple ways.
“We have some of those kids that can be challenging, and we’ve seen them turn it around because they know they have somebody to look up to,” Schneider says. “They have those role models they want to impress, and you can see that they’re really trying, making efforts to do the right thing, and their academics have improved as well.”
Club ROAR participant Emily Wilson is a sophomore early childhood education major from Jonestown, Ohio, who had an existing relationship with Kenton Elementary after doing her field experience there. When she heard from a friend about Club ROAR, she knew it would be a perfect opportunity for her to make an impact, and she has not been disappointed.
I think there has been a positive effect on the kids, especially when they tell me that this is their favorite thing to do,” she says. “To me, that means a lot because sometimes they have a bad day or just don’t want to be here, but then coming to Club ROAR changes their whole day for the better.
ONU’s Department of Education provides an excellent foundation for those looking to shape young minds. Each year, graduating education majors consistently achieve a 100 percent passage rate on the teacher licensure exam, and within six months of graduation, 100 percent of them are employed in full-time teaching positions.
The ultimate goal of the program, though, is to produce educators who make a difference in the lives of their students. What does that look like? Every story is different, but each of them has at least one thing in common – an educator who cares.