Shiraina Lewis, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, helps a student at St. Hyacinth School navigate through a reading tutorial program during a weekly mentor session.
The lessons taught in PSY 3940 are not something that can be learned from a textbook or lecture. The class, titled the STAR Mentee Program, focuses on taking UT students out of the classroom and away from campus to play an important role in the lives of the students at St. Hyacinth School.
The STAR Mentee Program is a three-credit-hour class developed by Dr. Mojisola Tiamiyu, associate professor of psychology. The class operates as a tutoring program for more than 50 students at St. Hyacinth School who are primarily from ethnic minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged families. UT students work with the children in fifth through eighth grades three hours a week on vocabulary, grammar and reading capabilities.
Tiamiyu developed the class two years ago as a way to incorporate service learning into a classroom setting. “Community service is a lifelong thing. Not only are our students providing much-needed tutoring to the children, I hope they realize that they can bring about social change and make a real difference in these children’s lives,” Tiamiyu said.
Julie Vilela, who served as a program mentor last year when she was an undergraduate majoring in psychology, explained she was happy to realize the students welcome additional help with their schoolwork — and someone to look up to. “At this age, middle-school students are seeking any sort of guidance, so this is a critical time to incorporate mentors into their lives,” said Vilela, now a graduate student in the College of Business Administration. “These kids really react to a positive attitude and excitement. If the mentor has enough enthusiasm and shows enough passion for the task at hand — reading — then she can create passion in those she’s teaching.”
In addition to weekly tutoring sessions, the UT students are required to keep journal entries detailing their experiences to help them build on their knowledge of youth mentoring, their academic mentoring skills, and their understanding of the value of service learning.
According to Tiamiyu, this local program is just the start of what she hopes to accomplish by incorporating service learning into classroom studies. “My ultimate goal is to have UT students perform service-learning projects outside the United States in countries like Nigeria to expose them to international psychology and mental health and social issues,” Tiamiyu said.
The success of the program recently was recognized by northwest Ohio’s Partners in Education as a BEST Partner Award nominee.