Students united to help youths Groups live and serve community together at Western Maryland

May 18, 1998|By Lisa Breslin | Lisa Breslin,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Three years ago, Western Maryland College students Mike Cummings and Dan Shattuck were searching for a program that would help the community and give them a sense of belonging.

They didn't want to join a fraternity, as did many of their friends. They wanted to live with a group who would share their commitment to making the town where they went to college a better place.

When Shattuck and Cummings graduate this weekend, they will leave behind Sense of Pride -- 10 men who volunteered as mentors and tutors for pupils at West Middle School and lived in a suite in Daniel McLea residence hall.

As each member took on more academic and extracurricular responsibilities, they traveled to West Middle School twice a week -- often twice a day -- to tutor and talk with pupils who needed academic help or someone to talk to.

They learned quickly that they didn't like patrolling or feeling like "parents or mean teachers asking about homework," said Cummings, a studio art/art history major from Erin, N.Y.

The greatest joy came from the big-brother relationships they developed with the middle schoolers.

In addition to helping with homework, Sense of Pride members took them to the campus for sports events, pizza parties or to play games and hang out.

"I will always remember a big night for this one student," said Shattuck, a history and political science major from Baltimore. "He didn't fit in well at his school, but he had this one great night.

"He was hanging out with us, his college friends, and he won the Half Time Shoot Out for his age group at the [WMC] basketball game. We were cheering him on, everyone was. Then we made him a certificate and had the school announce his victory during morning announcements.

"I knew then that what we were doing paid off," Shattuck said. "Seeing him happy made me happy."

Sense of Pride is one of eight Affinity Groups at Western Maryland College made up of students who offer community service on or off campus and live in group campus housing. The goal of the group housing is to provide cohesiveness to members and give them an easy meeting place.

Competition for housing is tough each year, and every group has to reapply.

"The students worked so hard from the beginning," said Jackie Cowan, a guidance counselor at the middle school who helped coordinate the program. "It was purely voluntary. Every year they called and arranged schedules and worked so hard. You don't hear about young men like this often -- men who volunteer but not for the glory."

Sense of Pride's success is shared with the Woman's Club of Westminster, which helps provide transportation for WMC mentors and the middle school pupils. The club also provides food for events.

"We are so pleased with this group of young men," said Jackie Hering, co-chair of the education department for the Woman's Club. "They have done it on their own and with real commitment. They have so many other things they could be doing with their spare time."

The middle school pupils are grateful, too.

"I had a C in math, and when they came it went up to an A," said West Middle pupil Aaron Blevins, referring to his tutors. "It was fun going to the college and playing basketball with them."

"Aaron is kind of shy and the guys really helped his self-confidence," said his mother, Wendy Blevins. "He got better grades, and it was great for him to feel like one of the guys with them."

Cummings and Shattuck remained with Sense of Pride from its inception. Members who will return next year are Jeff Cree, Brian Tombs, Jim Hagman, Jeff Harrity, Chad Langville, Branden Mills, Jeff Myers and Mitch Sterner.

"I hope the program continues for many years," Shattuck said. "Maybe the students we worked with will go to college after they graduate and do the same thing for the community."

Pub Date: 5/18/98

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