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York College Rec students make an impact with Communities in Schools program

March 14, 2019
York College students participate in activity with elementary school students.

Three blocks.

That’s how far McKinley Elementary School students in York City can walk to reach the campus of York College of Pennsylvania.

So, it was a no brainer for Alex Kadyszewski, a 2010 graduate of York College, to find a way to connect his alma mater with his role as site coordinator for Communities in Schools in Pennsylvania at McKinley, a Kindergarten through 8th-grade school in the York City School District.

As soon as he was hired by Communities in Schools, which deems itself the largest drop-out prevention initiative in the nation, Alex, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History, knew he had to find a way to bring York College students and inner-city children together in some way or another.

His dream has come true.

“Our mission of Communities In Schools is to surround students with a community of support empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. Jackson as well as Goode, Davis, and Hannah Penn also participate in the Leadership Event Program,” Alex says.

That means he helps lead student council meetings, helps students get basic needs like food, shelter and clothing and works with them on attendance and behavior.

And, above all of that, he helps them see a brighter future for themselves — something they might not have had the chance to do otherwise.

Benefits of the program

Today, Communities in Schools in York City works directly with York College students. Jackson Elementary School also offers this program.

In one of their partnership programs, the young students tour the campus and attend events like a leadership program where the students participate in two on-campus sessions of team-building and problem-solving activities while working side-by-side with college students.

Additionally, they offer a buddy program for 8th graders that pairs them up to work with a college student at their school for an hour a week.

Christa Walls is a Therapeutic Recreation major at York College and hopes to be able to work with children with a variety of different disabilities to ensure they are living the best quality of life possible.

“I chose this major because I believe that even if a child can't do something the conventional way, it doesn't mean that they should not be able to participate. I hope to be able to increase their quality of life for the better by being able to include different recreational activities in their day to day life,” she says.

Her favorite experience working with children from McKinley was being able to make an impact in their life in such a short amount of time, she says.

“By the end of our time together they were all asking the next time they could come back,” she says.

One particular student that made an impact on her was one that was extremely shy in the beginning of the program.

“By the end of the time, he was running around, playing with the other kids, and interacting with all of the adults in the gym,” she says. “It was nice immediately seeing benefits of the program we worked so hard to plan.”

Beyond the classroom

For Christa, the experience was personally beneficial, as well.

She learned a lot of leadership skills she can use one day in a job after college.

“It fits my future goals because being able to do recreational activities with kids is exactly what I want to be able to do in the future,” she says. “In the time we spent together, we made sure that the kids felt as if there was nothing that they could not do — and that is exactly how I hope to spend my career.”

Christa said this kind of learning is exactly why she decided to attend York College.

“We not only get exceptional instruction and learning opportunities in the classroom, but our professors also go the extra mile to bring opportunities to apply what we learned into the community,” she says. “It feels great being able to take what I learned in class, and immediately be able to give back to the local community.”

Unleashing possibilities

Now, Alex is putting his college experience to work to help the York City community — and to help York College students get more of that hands-on experience.

But, he too, has been amazed at the outcomes.

One of his favorite stories is about a student who was excellent in academics but had written off going to a 4-year college like York College for herself.

“She just didn’t think it was for her, so she was going to go to a technical school to learn cosmetology,” he says. “That’s a great path, but she is a straight-A student and has a lot of potential. She didn’t realize her own potential.”

She has since changed her mind and will be pursuing a 4-year degree, he says.

“This kind of program opens their eyes to things they never thought were possible,” Alex says.

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