- by Mount Saint Mary College
Mount students mentor Armory middle schoolers at home, on field trips

Mount Saint Mary College teacher candidates and the middle schoolers of the Envisioning Possibilities program visited the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Studio Museum recently for a day of fun and learning. The trip was the culmination of a semester’s worth of the mentoring program.

Mount Saint Mary College Education students recently partnered with the Newburgh Armory Unity Center for Envisioning Possibilities, a fun and informative afterschool enrichment program for middle school students.

The program was made possible with a grant from the Bourne Foundation and overseen by the Mount’s Collaborative for Equity in Literacy Learning (CELL) and Jane Gangi, professor of Education at the college.

There are an encouraging number of programs in the Newburgh area for educational enrichment on the elementary school level. However, as students age out of these initiatives, they are left with fewer afterschool opportunities than their younger counterparts. One of the purposes of Envisioning Possibilities, said Gangi, is to help bridge this gap.

The Mount teacher candidates aided local middle school students with their homework and engaged in book club-style discussions based on texts selected by the Armory students. The program culminated in a field trip to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

The learner-driven approach of the program helped to quickly engage the young students and tailor the experience to their interests. The middle schoolers “enjoyed the program greatly,” revealed Gangi.

“We saw reluctant participants become enthusiastic participants and, at the end of the program, several asked to be notified for more,” she said.

Mount Education student and Envisioning Possibilities mentor Jacqueline Rivera of Hopewell Junction, N.Y. said she saw excellent growth in the middle schoolers over the course of the semester-long program.

“The students were great to work with and always were excited to learn from us Mount students,” she explained. “They were intelligent and willing to learn new activities with us. On the field trip to the Schomburg in Harlem, N.Y., the students were so excited to get there and see all of the cool artifacts, the hands-on activities, and old photographs in the museum. The students were in awe to see all of the amazing things.”

But it wasn’t just the middle schoolers who benefited from the program: Envisioning Possibilities also helped to make the Mount teacher candidates stronger educators.

“The students at the Newburgh Armory were a positive impact to my fieldwork experience here at Mount Saint Mary College,” said Rivera. She noted that the students chose to read both books in which they see themselves (mirror books) and books in which they learn about cultures beyond their own (window books). This, she said, encouraged her to take a more multicultural approach to literacy with her future students, giving them both kinds of experiences.

The first semester of the Envisioning Possibilities program ended in December, but local middle schoolers can look forward to the second season of the program, beginning in a few weeks. Taught by the next cohort of Mount teacher candidates and overseen by Mount Education professors Janine Bixler and Rebecca Norman, this season of the program will maintain its focus on mentorship and experiential learning through field trips.

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