University of Maine at Presque Isle Education majors are collaborating with several community organizations this semester—including Carleton Project and Special Olympics—on three engaged learning projects meant to promote community and youth involvement.
Students in EDU 352: Consultation and Collaboration are working together to create greater community awareness for Special Olympics, Carleton Project, and a youth mentoring program they are developing in ways that they hope will help to get the campus and local community involved with volunteering, mentoring and student service opportunities.
"These students are working hard on the creation and development of service activities that will greatly benefit the community," Dr. Bill Breton, UMPI Assistant Professor of Special Education, said. "Not only are these projects fostering positive educational experiences in the community and on campus, but they're also providing our students, who are future teachers, with guided, practical field experience in the development of programs that will enhance and foster the growth of school-age students at school, home and in the community."
One cohort of students is working on a project to encourage community and UMPI student involvement in Aroostook County Special Olympics. The purpose of their project is to provide information to the campus and the local community about the opportunities available with Special Olympics in Aroostook County. The cohort is in the process of creating a brochure to help with awareness and promotion. Topics covered in the brochure include details about the Special Olympics Area Management Team, how Special Olympics got started in this area, what Special Olympics entails, how people can volunteer, descriptions about the athletic events held here in Aroostook County, and how recognition of individual achievement is given during those athletic events. Students hope this brochure will help contribute to regional awareness about Special Olympics, increase its fan base, and encourage UMPI students and the community to get more involved.
Another cohort is working to develop a mentoring program focused on elementary and middle school students. The hope is to have qualified UMPI students work one-on-one with local kids between the ages of 5 and 14, similar to the nationally recognized Big Brothers Big Sisters program. The mentor/mentee and the mentee's parents would agree on a place and time, such as the UMPI gym, playground or library to work together on homework, talk about any struggles they may be having, or just have fun.
"There is currently no formal volunteer program like this for UMPI students; however, there is a lot of interest and it's a great way for us to get involved and give back to the local community," UMPI Education student Jenna Kitchen said.
The third cohort is working with Carleton Project to further strengthen the University's relationship with the alternative high school and to more deeply involve its students in UMPI campus life. Carleton Project's Presque Isle site is located on the UMPI campus and has about 15 students. The EDU 352 students are looking at ways to make students at Carleton Project more a part of campus life by including them in various University outings, activities and events. In the past, Carleton Project has participated in a few campus activities, but more social connections between the alternative high school and the University are desired to provide Carleton students with as many positive higher education experiences as possible. The cohort has also been collaborating with instructors in the University's College of Education on a process for allowing Education majors to bridge the connection between students who want to volunteer their classroom and mentoring hours with Carleton Project.
The EDU 352 students will be delivering a presentation about their projects during University Day on Wednesday, April 10. The public is invited to attend this presentation as well as the many other activities happening during the free, daylong student conference. The University Day presentation schedule, including locations for individual presentations, is available on the University's website at www.umpi.edu/uday.
"These are all wonderful projects and we're so pleased that our Education students have embraced them and undertaken the hard work required to move these efforts forward," UMPI President Linda Schott said. "Our hope is that these projects will have a lasting impact on the groups involved and that our Education students come away with some excellent experiences that will serve them well once they begin their professional teaching careers and engage more deeply in community volunteerism."