Richard D. L. Fulton

Mount Saint Mary’s University’s (MSMU) Junior Mountaineers Program, a student-founded organization, is seeking to expand the roles it previously played in offering mentoring to individuals trapped in isolation, resulting from the recent COVID pandemic.

According to Michael Hershey, graduate assistant of MSMU’s College of Liberal Arts, the program is seeking to expand its scope of mentoring services and has recently added providing mentoring services to the Lincoln Elementary School in Frederick (not to be confused with the Lincoln Elementary School in Gettysburg).  The group is also seeking to expand the offering of their mentoring services to older students as well.

As an example of the success of the Junior Mountaineers Program, Hershey stated that, in Spring 2022, Lincoln Elementary students were given an MSMU campus tour, had lunch in the Patriot Dining Hall, and were specially invited to practice with the university’s men’s basketball team.

Joe Vince, MSMU professor and the club’s faculty advisor, stated, “We gave the students Junior Mountaineers t-shirts that were signed by the basketball team,” adding, “I remember how excited the kids were. One of the kids said, ‘I am never getting rid of this! These guys will be famous!’”  Vince noted that many kids might not find philosophy and political science all that interesting, “but playing basketball is a great place to start connecting with these kids and teaching them about dedication and responsibility.”

After that initial meeting between MSMU’s mentors and the Lincoln Elementary School students, “mentors now go to Lincoln Elementary to spend time after school or during school events with their mentees.  “Mounties meet at least once a week for 30 minutes on Zoom, or in-person with their elementary student, offering help with homework, teaching life skills. Such as time management, or just chatting as a supportive friend,” Hershey reported.

Sergeant Rebecca Corrado, of the Frederick Police Department, who serves as the resource officer for Lincoln Elementary, stated, “The students tell me first thing in the morning that their mentor is coming today, and the feeling of anticipation truly carries them through the day,” according to Hershey.

Junior Mountaineers Program was formed two years ago by a group of MSMU students who wanted to “bring their community together to combat the loneliness brought on by the pandemic, through a mentoring program,” Hershey reported, adding that the Junior Mountaineers Program prepares Mount students to be role models for elementary schoolers.

“The program, started as a juvenile mentoring program, (but now) is looking to expand to older students, and has expanded (MSMU participants) from a handful of Mount students volunteering with the program to include faculty, staff, and community members,” he stated. 

The program is managed by the MSMU Criminal Justice Student Association.

In fact, MSMU students who wish to participate in the mentoring program have to pass background checks.  “Mount students who apply to be a part of the program go through a background check conducted by the Frederick Police Department,” Hershey stated, adding, “Once they are cleared, they are assigned to a student at Lincoln Elementary in Frederick.”

Yelena Schmidt, president of the Criminal Justice Student Association, said she is “thrilled with the success of the program and the possibilities for the future,” Hershey reported, further noting that Schmidt has been a tutor for three years now and is a head-tutor this year. “She has thrived as a leader in the Junior Mountaineers.”

“Every student is very different. I mentored a couple of students over the years, and they have always loved hanging out with me and telling me about school. It was really nice just being their friend, and they really loved just having someone to listen to them,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt noted that mentorship opens young students’ eyes to the world of possibilities available at an institution like the Mount, as they interface with student-athletes; STEM, liberal arts, business and education majors; artists and musicians, and more.

Junior Mountaineers Program members and faculty.

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