4/23/2014 10:22:37 AM

Mentoring Young Minds

Thursday, February 06, 2014

By Mike Clemens '15

What do computer and art classes, elementary school students and Siena mentors have in common? They are all integral components of Siena’s School of Science Urban Scholars, a program that brings student mentors together with children from urban school districts int he Capital Region to explore new topics and ways of learning.

This hands-on outreach program began at Siena almost 20 years ago as a tool for education students to gain valuable instructional experience before joining the workforce. Since its creation, the program has evolved to become much more. Today it is as equally concerned with service to the community as it is with the professional development of Siena students.

“Urban Scholars has been such a rewarding experience,” said Yomary Rodriguez ’14, a mathematics education major who has been involved with the program since her freshman year. “To me, the most important thing about Urban Scholars is the connection I have made with the kids. Each of them has so much to offer and it has been great to see them grow and excel in areas that they may otherwise have not had the opportunity to participate in.”

For 14 Saturdays each semester, students from elementary schools in the Albany area come to Siena to attend workshop-style classes taught by student mentors. These classes introduce children to a variety of STEM-related topics ranging from computer programing to architecture to mathematics. Participation begins as early as fifth grade and students are encouraged to continue through high school.

“Our goal is to help show kids what working in real science is like,” said Michele McColgan, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics and director of Urban Scholars. “A lot of the kids who participate don’t have access to a computer or this kind technology at home, so this program can really help them to develop important skills.”

The Urban Scholars program goes to great lengths to present material an interesting and fun way. Last semester, it introduced a series of classes centered on the computer game Minecraft. Siena mentors are using the game to teach their protégés about engineering and computer literacy, all in a way that makes difficult topics accessible to students of various ages.

“This is a great experience for the kids because the student mentors love the subjects they are teaching,” said McColgan. “I don’t think that there is a better way for a child to find out ‘do I like this’ than by learning from someone who loves what they do.”

In all, the dedication of Siena’s student mentors is having a positive impact both in the Capital Region and in the Siena College community. “Urban Scholars is showing Siena students what kind of a difference they can make in a child's life,” said Rodriguez. “It can truly open people’s eyes.”

Contact: Ken Jubie
Contact E-mail: communications@siena.edu

Back to Siena News.