Community: Power to the Children
A campus faith group partners with a grade school to help minority kids succeed academically and creatively. by Liz Getman ’09
Instead of catching up on sleep like most college students, Lesley “Alex” Rhoden ’11 spends her Saturdays at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School (BJM) teaching children the importance of education.
“Our goal,” says Rhoden, “is to empower the [racial] minority youth of Ithaca, while building their self-esteem. We teach them that they don’t have to take a deviant route in life.”
Rhoden is one of about 15 students who volunteer with the Student-to- Student mentoring program, a collaboration between BJM and the Social Justice Ministry of the College’s Community Church — a gathering of Christian students that acts independently of the Protestant Community and whose weekly services follow African American styles of worship. The students meet with 15 to 20 fifth graders and their siblings two Saturdays a month. The program, which is new this year, is the brainchild of Robert B. Earl, assistant director of the Office of Career Services and pastor of the IC Community Church.
“It is our responsibility to go into our local communities and help others,” says Earl. “From working with youth in the past, I’ve learned that there are a lot of negative role models out there. With this program, the students provide a positive perspective.”
Earl approached Lillian Bailey ’09, chair of the Social Justice Ministry, with his idea. “I thought she would be good at rallying students around it,” he says. “She answered the challenge.”