A 2015-2016 Phillips Alumni Scholar
2015-2016 Alumni Scholar Kathleen Hemingway (University of New England, ’19) hails from beautiful but small Block Island in Rhode Island, where she founded the Student Leadership Team in the K-12 Block Island School. Growing out of an internship with the school social worker, the team is her response to the challenge, “What is one thing you would change at school?” Remembering her own middle school years as a time of sometimes awkward transitioning, Kathleen sought a way to make life for the younger students less intimidating while also serving as a good role model for them. Her sophomore year, she used extensive surveys and meetings with faculty to determine the need for the program and the willingness of the high schoolers to serve as mentors. Kathleen and her advisor decided that the program would hold fun activities for the middle school at least once a quarter while offering mentoring, tutoring and help with specific skill sets for students from kindergarten through seventh grade. Students would be referred through the office, and then the leadership team would match the student to an appropriate Leader. The Leader then developed the specific action plan for the student in concert with the parent(s). The plan included an end date, although the student and mentor could opt to continue if both felt the partnership was working. The Leadership Team also created appealing quarterly activities and carefully documented each event to evaluate its success and facilitate the planning for the following years. These events included scavenger hunts, movie nights, picnics and themed holiday parties.
“Overall, the team has made incredible strides to give kids the opportunity to feel like themselves and show them that, regardless of what they may think, there are people out there who care about them and are willing to listen. I was surprised by the impact the program had on the Student Leaders as well. They learned how to handle difficult, unforeseen circumstances, to plan, implement and evaluate an event and work with the faculty. I learned how to admit when I need help and ask for it and how to lead a group while giving everyone a voice. I will carry the lessons I have learned from my peers, the students and the adults involved for the rest of my life. One person can really make a difference, and I can be that person.”
The Leadership Team is in good hands to continue even though Kathleen is now at University of New England. So far, she is involved with Habitat for Humanity and the Education Club. Her work-study job is service-oriented: Through America Reads /America Counts she tutors at a local elementary school, currently her favorite activity. She looks forward to becoming an elementary school teacher.