Recently, a few new faces have made an appearance in the classrooms and hallways of Miriam’s Lower/Middle School, as student volunteers from St. Louis University High School (SLUH) worked with the Miriam community for their senior service projects.
Eight SLUH students spent the month of January volunteering with Miriam’s unique learners, acting as mentors and sometimes looking a little more like friends.
Leslie Lockett, a middle school teacher at Miriam, says hosting the SLUH volunteers is a highlight each year for the students.
“The students love having SLUH volunteers in the classroom,” Leslie says. “They are curious about the boys from day one and are always sad when they have to leave at the end of the month.”
Each volunteer worked with one classroom for the entire month. They helped out in a number of ways, from accompanying students to PE or lunch, to working with students one-on-one who may need extra need help with writing or math problems.
Joey was assigned to work with Leslie’s class during the month, and says he really got to know each student on an individual level.
“One thing I found that was interesting was that I when found myself journaling, I would talk way more about the kids than the experience of being here,” Joey says. “And I feel like it’s helped me find more of the human connection. Because I’ll be recognizing with certain kids what I need to do to specifically help them out.”
Leslie says the volunteers not only help the kids academically, but also act as role models in social situations, especially for middle school students.
“Usually, the SLUH students pick up the dynamics of the group fairly quickly, and they are great at stepping in when they see that kids need help academically or need social reminders,” Leslie says. “They are great role models for our kids. And for the students in middle school, it’s helpful for them to get to know a high school student and to ask the volunteers questions about high school life and academics.”
For Joey, working with students only a few years younger than him was a lot different than the volunteer work he’s done with younger kids.
“It’s weird, because you want to be a friend, but you also recognize that you need to set a good example and help teach these kids what they can and cannot say,” Joey says. “And just finding that line can be a little tricky sometimes.”
Many of those social interactions take place outside the classroom – in the gym, on the playground, or in the occupational therapy room.
“The kids love when the SLUH students are involved in the games they play both at recess and during PE (kickball, dodgeball, soccer, etc.),” Leslie says. “I also think the volunteers really enjoy playing the games with our kids.”
As Joey has helped teach the younger students, he says learned a lot about the value of patience and respect during the experience.
“It’s really helped me open my perspective as a kid and more as a mentor,” Joeys says. “Because I really didn’t know about this school or the things that the school does. So just seeing and being in the school and taking a kind of first-person experience here, it’s just really eye-opening.”
Both Joey and Leslie say the experience overall was positive.
“I’ve done a lot of volunteer work in the past and I feel like this has been one of the more fulfilling experiences,” Joey says. “I feel like I’ve actually made an impact and been able to be a helper and a friend to a lot of these kids, which has just been really nice.”
“I really enjoy having the SLUH volunteers here every year,” Leslie says. “We’re always sad to see them go!”