Life Lessons - Mentoring program allows PLU and middle school students to learn from each other
by Nisha Ajmani '02
Every time they met, their eyes opened a little
more. Yvette Brown, a PLU education
major, and Megan Riden, a seventh-grader at Keithley Middle
School, talked, laughed and did homework. But, most importantly,
they spent last spring learning from each other.
“She taught me that life’s not
easy but we can still do our best,” said Brown ’04.
Riden responded, “I learned to stay in school and try even
though it might be hard.”
From shooting hoops to helping out in math,
about 100 PLU students participate each year in a program called
LIFE, Leaders in Friendship Experiences. LIFE, which was started
in spring 2002, combines relationship-building experiences with
academic support for middle school students in the Franklin Pierce
School District. PLU students meet once a week with his or her own
middle schooler. “We felt we needed to have a one-on-one with
our students,” said Lynn Sawyer, middle school prevention
resource coordinator. About half of the students’ time concentrates
on homework, and the other half focuses on bonding and teaching
more than just math and reading.
“I learned how to respect people,”
said Christina Shockley, seventh-grader.
However, LIFE doesn’t just benefit the
middle school students. The youth are nominated by their teachers
to participate in the program and asked if they would be willing
to help PLU students get real life experience in working with middle
school students. According to Sawyer, the program is designed to
inspire the middle school students to want to succeed in school,
while at the same time provide training for pre-service teachers
and social workers enrolled at PLU.
“PLU students get a real idea about what
middle school life and challenges are about,” said Sawyer.
At Keithley Middle School, the students take their mentors to class
with them and show them around the school. Then, at the end of each
year, the middle school students are invited to PLU for a tour and
Brown said the program helped her see the struggles
many middle school students go through. “All you can do
is be there to encourage them to go as far as they can go,”
Brown said. Sometimes she and Riden did homework, but the rest
of the time Brown just listened. Brown encouraged Riden by telling
her that school is important no matter what else is going on in
her life and urging her to go to college.
The encouragement and advice seems to sink
in. Sawyer says she has seen a lot of improvement among the youth.
They get a sense that teachers and other adults care about them
and that schoolwork does matter. Students who may not have even
heard the word “university” before are not only introduced
to post-secondary education, most intend to go.
Sawyer is excited that PLU is sending students
onto middle school campuses. “PLU has done a neat thing in
investing in the community,” Sawyer said.
Miara Dawkins, left, Johnathan Heimes, center, and Samantha Krier
– all sixth-graders – check out the exhibit in the
University Gallery. (Photo by Jordan Hartman)
By: Jordan Hartman '02
Katie Fowler ’04, left, shows eighth-grader Monteece
Brewer and seventh-grader Johan Molina around the PLU campus.