Monday, July 12, 2010

Edgewood College Visit: Day One

Today I had the privilege of attending the first day of the annual Edgewood College visit to Cabrini Connections. For over a decade Dr. Tom Holub, Associate Professor in Education, has brought a group of his graduate students (all studying Education) from their campus in Madison, Wisconsin to put on a three-day summer program for a group of our students.

After a name game that got everyone on their feet, Tom explained that the purpose of the next few days is to provide this group of Cabrini Connections students with fun-filled activities that also get them thinking about their goals and futures. In the activities that followed, Cabrini Connections students worked with the Edgewood students to create diagrams of their support networks. In a similar fashion to what I have been doing so far on my blog, these students identified which people and communities they rely on for support and advice. I was thrilled to hear how many of the students talked extremely sincerely about the support and friendship provided by their mentors from Cabrini Connections. For instance, Crystal Townsend discussed how much fun she has with her mentor Brea Adams playing tennis, talking, and working on her math homework.

Afterward, everyone chose a creative means to tell the group a bit about themselves. I was impressed by the diversity of expressive forms represented. Some students wrote beautiful poems, others created artwork, and others did spoken word—a reminder of the many skills, talents, and individual personalities represented within this group of students.

Soon, we ventured into sunny downtown Chicago: Scavenger Hunt Time! After breaking up into groups with an equal mix of Cabrini students and Edgewood students, we headed into the city with a variety of tasks ranging from identifying a book on Oprah’s book list to finding the most popular games at the ESPN Zone. I was in a group with Crystal and Alisha who (luckily!) knew plenty about the bus system and downtown Chicago to navigate and lead our group with ease. I enjoyed learning more about these two young women who are both aspiring lawyers, excellent dancers, and know exactly where the Hershey Store is located (important for purposes of our scavenger hunt!). It was exciting to see Crystal, already an active students at Cabrini Connections, bring along her cousin who--like me--is new to the Cabrini Connections community. Based on her enthusiasm today and her eager assertion that she will show me the ropes at Navy Pier tomorrow, I think Alisha had a good introduction to the program!

After returning to the Cabrini Connections site (our group was the first to return, might I add), we enjoyed comparing stories and boasting about our respective teams' “accomplishments.” I loved hearing about new connections forged even within this relatively brief first time together. For instance, rising sophomore and aspiring journalist Charles Hill met an Edgewood student who offered him contacts to several journalists who would be excited to talk to him about his career ambitions. I was struck by how connections like these comprise invaluable steps toward realizing the vision of Cabrini Connections—to help youth through college and into careers by age 25—and how opportunities to interact with adults and professionals truly provide students with a huge advantage in this process.

As much as I enjoyed the entire day of activities, sunshine, and samples from the Hershey Store, the highlight for me was beginning to get to know some of the Cabrini Connections students. I was incredibly impressed with their maturity, poise, and cooperation while interacting with the graduate students. In talking to the students about their mentor relationships, I couldn’t help but reflect on how forming meaningful relationships with adults will help these middle school and high school students continue building their cross-generational communication skills and their ability to connect to a wide range of people.

I know Mondays tend to get a bad rap in the working world, but my first Monday with Cabrini Connections was definitely fantastic and memorable. Thanks to all the graduate students from Edgewood, and I am looking forward to tomorrow!

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