Guiding people on the path to change.
|Published in Pocono Record|
|ESU students mentor kids at East Stroudsburg alternative school|
|by Dan Berrett, Pocono Record
Asking teenagers to describe their strengths out loud can be tantamount to telling them to risk public humiliation.
that was the assignment facing Lauren Sullivan and her classmates on
hate talking about myself because it sounds conceited,” said Sullivan,
15, who was one of seven students working at
Alternative schools are meant to be places where students can relearn patterns of behavior that got them into trouble in the first place, and then, ideally, go back to their home schools.
Opponents charge that these placements have become overused, while supporters say alternative schools can provide a needed safety valve.
exercise had Sullivan and her classmates working one-on-one with their
mentors – students majoring in secondary education at East
goals tended toward generalities—live in
The idea of the exercise was to get the students to think about their future and how to get there. It was something that Aishling Fennessy, 15, had not done much of before. “I live day by day,” she said. “This kind of scares me, in a way. I can’t depend on anyone but myself.”
program is meant to create connections between students at
want to help kids realize that it’s not just parents or teachers who
care about them,” said Giunta, who was raised in
For Fennessy and her mentor, Seville Soto, 21, that realization has soaked in. Each came to the area from New York—Fennessy from Queens and Soto from Brooklyn. Each described a similar brassiness masking a generous side. “We, like, connect,” Fennessy said.
said the experience at
Tuesday’s group is composed of fifth- through ninth-graders and will meet through the end of the ESU school year; another on Wednesday is for high school students. “They’re engaged the whole time,” Charney said. “It’s amazing.”
At Sullivan’s table, Alison Schaefer, 50, an ESU student, shared bits of her own perspective as the girl wrote on her paper. The 15-year-old, whose home school is East Stroudsburg High School North, started to talk more. But she said it generally took her a long time to open up and trust people.
“Trust needs to be earned.” Schaefer said, as she sipped her drink.
Schaefer said she planned to work in alternative schools teaching biology once she graduates. “They have more life,” she said of the students there. “They’re more interesting to deal with.”
was something she found she had a talent for after working at
Schaefer tried to convince Sullivan to articulate what she could be proud of—even if it was as simple as writing it down and then throwing it away, so no one could read it.
“It’s important to think good thoughts about yourself, even if you don’t tell everybody,” Schaefer told her. “In this room, in this circumstance, this is exactly what we want you to do.”