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Leading by example: York College students open young eyes to future possibilities

The York College REC 103 Leadership and Group Dynamics class recently ran teambuilding initiatives with local elementary school students.
The York College REC 103 Leadership and Group Dynamics class recently ran teambuilding initiatives with local elementary school students.

Throwing a beach ball back and forth with a group of elementary school students might not seem like class work, but for York College students it's a way to contribute to the community while getting a quality education.

Dr. Julie Saville, professor of the class, sees students from across the York College campus looking for hays to give back.

“They’re not all Recreation majors,” she says. “Some are Human Service, Psychology, Sociology, Criminal Justice majors.  But they’re all students who want to work with people and that's the focus of the class.”

The idea is born

Alex Kadyszewski, a 2010 York College graduate and History major, is a site coordinator for Communities in Schools, a national nonprofit organization that brings community resources inside public schools. 

Retired professor Dr. Jeff Witman, who led the REC 103 class before Dr. Saville, brainstormed an idea with Alex to bring area elementary school children to the college. The goal was to let them “have fun and learn some skills to bring back to their classroom to share with their classmates and potentially become leaders in their classroom,” Alex says.

Reflecting further on how and why the idea developed, his passion is evident.

“I wish I had more of these kinds of opportunities to see what’s on the other side of the fence,” Alex says. “Some of these kids don’t even realize that there is a college nearby or that they are allowed to do some of these activities we’ve shown them.”

Energy, support, and truth

The students from the participating area elementary schools – McKinley, Hannah Penn, and Jackson – engaged in fun and educational team-building activities with the REC 103 students.  Some initiatives included activities focused on energy, support, and truth.

Ryan Taphouse is a sophomore Criminal Justice major from Long Island, N.Y. His group’s initiative was truth, which illustrated to the younger students how important honesty is in a leadership role.

One activity to demonstrate this included a beach ball with questions attached to it, which was tossed between the group members. When caught by the person whose name was called, that person was to answer the corresponding question quickly and truthfully.

Positive partnership

Ryan clearly sees the two-way benefits to college students like himself and the elementary-age children.

“The partnership with Communities in Schools and working with the kids from local elementary schools definitely helped me personally become a stronger, more effective leader,” he says. “We’re working with kids who may not be coming from the best of backgrounds.”

Dr. Saville echoes his sentiments from the college-level perspective. 

“College students act as a role model for the younger students so they can see themselves as a possible college student in the future. Being exposed to the possibilities is so important for the younger kids,” she says.

Making an impact

“If you like to apply what you’re learning in the classroom, this is the class for you,” Dr. Saville says. “We don’t just read about it, we do it.  We don’t just study it, we practice it.”

The true reward of the REC 103 class, according to Ryan, comes not from a letter grade but rather the experience.

“Seeing the instant reaction and receiving the positive feedback from these kids is more rewarding than getting a good grade on any test.”