Members of the Seton Hall community from the Office of the Provost, the Center for Community Research and Engagement, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Human Services, the University CORE, the Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Program, the Upward Bound program, and The Career Center have joined together to teach leadership to students at Frelinghuysen Middle School through the Student Outreach Academic Reinforcement (SOAR) program. As part of a larger community outreach program created by the Bethel Morristown Church, SOAR's mission is to engage 6th through 8th grade students in leadership development as they transition from middle school to high school.
SOAR began as a part of the Community Development Center within the Bethel Morristown Church, spearheaded by Teresa Williams. The Center offered tutoring for middle school students, but Williams noticed that the students felt lost once they reached high school. Williams created the SOAR program to provide these students with mentorship and support as they advanced in their academic careers. The cohort currently includes 20 students, all from Frelinghuysen Middle School.
The partnership between Seton Hall and SOAR was born out of the Interfaith Clergy Breakfast. Williams discussed the program with the Office of the Provost describing how she wanted to provide Seton Hall students and faculty with the opportunity to volunteer their time to help underprivileged students in need of guidance.
Karen Boroff, interim provost and executive vice president, shared, "St. Elizabeth Ann Seton tells us to be attentive to the voice of grace. When we began our collaboration with Faith Based leaders from the many churches in our environs, we did not know what may come forth. Our partnership with SOAR is an outgrowth of our work with the clergy and I am so thankful for Dr. Forrest Pritchett's leadership on this endeavor. We strive to continue to be attentive to the voice of grace as our work with Faith Based leaders continue."
Seton Hall freshmen taking the Journey of Transformation and Christianity, Culture, and Dialogue courses within the CORE Curriculum visited Frelinghuysen Middle School each Tuesday to teach leadership to the middle school SOAR students. Director of the University Core Nancy Enright, Ph.D., noted that these freshmen were the ideal SOAR mentors. "The students had a role in all of this," said Enright. "They give presentations, they're hands on, and the middle schoolers relate to the freshmen given how close they are in age. The SOAR program encapsulates what CORE is all about and speaks to the values of Seton Hall."
First year students from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Program provided SOAR with a biographical approach to leadership. The MLK scholars gave five-minute talks on the leadership styles of Dr. King, Ruby Bridges, and Pope Francis, highlighting how SOAR students can learn from these leaders to reflect upon themselves.
"We're not teaching leadership from a textbook," said Rev. Forrest Pritchett, Ph.D., Director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Program. "We teach from experience. The thrust of this leadership academy is about transformation of self that moves people into community engagement."
Molly Stoe, a student worker at the Center for Community Research and Engagement (CCRE) and public relations major, volunteered with the SOAR program for both the Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 semesters. As a representative of the CCRE, Stoe worked as a site leader and helped SOAR students develop. "My favorite aspect about volunteering with the SOAR program is definitely the kids," said Stoe. "You go back and see them every week and it's great to see how they grow and change over the course of the school year. I loved as they opened up to me more and I got to know them better, it made it easy to go back each week."
Said Provost Boroff, "On a small note, I was to be one of the instructors this spring for SOAR, but COVID-19 has gotten in the way, for now. However, we are hoping to provide virtual tutoring to the students. If anyone is interested in becoming a tutor they can contact the Office of the Provost."
In this way, the partnership and the support of the middle schoolers continue.
Categories: Faith and Service