This series, called “Reflections,” features guest posts by students involved at the Allbritton Center (see previous reflections by Alex Garcia ’17, Natalie May ’18, and Lydia Ottaviano ’17). They may be taking a service-learning class, engaged in community partnership work, DJ’ing at WESU, teaching at Green Street, pursuing the Civic Engagement Certificate, tutoring at the Center for Prison Education, working on a project/venture through the Patricelli Center, or some combination of the above and more. We believe that critical, real-time reflection enhances civic engagement work and promotes more robust learning. Want to contribute a reflection of your own? Contact Civic Engagement Fellow Rebecca Jacobsen‘16.
Reflection #4 – Mikaela Carty ’18
It was sophomore year and I was feeling a little unbalanced. I was in so many clubs that I can’t even name half of them, and yet I did not feel satisfied. I was doing so much but it felt little and insignificant. I needed a change, something that would replace my oh so many clubs and give me the fulfillment that sneaks a smile on my face. One day, I happened upon a community service page on Wesleyan’s website, and a couple of hours later, discovered NEAT (North End Action Team) Mentors. This group looked fun! It was based around the local elementary school, Macdonough, and the plan of NEAT Mentors was to just spend time with the students.
What I learned was that this group was way more than just fun. The first day I visited the local elementary school and spent time with the students during their lunch/recess period, I knew that this was the missing link to my schedule. It’s a service-geared partnership with our greater community beyond the figurative walls of Wesleyan that allowed me to take a breath away from stress, academics and college life and just be. You get to run around in the sun for no reason other than pure enjoyment, delve into your wild imagination on the playscape, make silly faces during lunch, and never stop laughing. Ever.
Over the summer I was asked by the wonderful former coordinator of NEAT Mentors, Claudia von Nostitz, to take over the program and be the new coordinator. I loved the program but I was so reluctant to accept that role. I felt way too under-qualified and inexperienced, especially since I had only been in NEAT Mentors for one semester. Was I really ready to organize the whole program by myself? Maybe not, but I took a chance and became the coordinator.
Now NEAT Mentors is known as BigMac and it is my pride and joy. What we do is quite simple: hang out with kids. We have three avenues to do this: daily lunch visits, assistance on school trips, and mentoring outside the classroom. The lunch visits have been happening since the beginning of this club but the assistance on school trips and one-on-one mentoring are two new aspects that are being planned and implemented now. It’s a work in progress but I know all of this can be a success with the support, dedication and love that I feel from all the incredible volunteers and other supportive individuals who join me on this quest to build a close-knit community.
The goal is to help make all the elementary students feel appreciated and loved (and trust me, the experience is pretty cathartic for the volunteers as well) and give them the attention they desire and sometimes don’t receive from their guardians and teachers. As the African proverb says, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” So let’s build one.