Binghamton University is on a mission to build the United States’ first county-wide system of university-assisted community schools. This system is designed to bring the resources of universities to bear in supporting children outside of the classroom so they are better equipped for learning inside of the classroom. To bring this vision to fruition, Binghamton University’s Center for Civic Engagement and the Broome County Promise Zone — an initiative spearheaded by Binghamton University, Broome-Tioga BOCES and the Broome County Mental Health Department — partner with six area school districts, connecting them with Binghamton University students, faculty and resources to address needs set forth by teachers and administrations. University students volunteer and intern as tutors and mentors in the classroom, provide lunchtime anti-bullying programs and facilitate after-school programming and family engagement events.
During the 2016–2017 academic year, 345 Binghamton University student volunteers and interns contributed 5,546 hours of service to 120 teachers and 5,225 community members through the Community Schools initiative.
One of these students was Miranda Currier, a junior majoring in math and economics, who volunteered as a mentor to middle schoolers at Windsor Central School District, a rural community about twenty miles east of Binghamton. In addition to mentoring two students, Currier immersed herself in the local community, volunteering to chaperone school dances and coaching teams in local volleyball and dodgeball tournaments. The benefits she received from the experience were twofold, she says. “It was cool to be so welcomed into an environment that I was a stranger in. And it reinforced that I want to be a teacher, because I had started to doubt it.”
The Windsor administration was so impressed by Currier that they encouraged her to apply to substitute teach this year, as she finishes out her senior year at Binghamton. “I told her she was not allowed to leave the district without filling out an application,” says Toby Youngs, associate principal at Windsor Middle School, “because one, I think she would be a great substitute teacher, and two, I think it would help her grow in her profession.” After graduation, Currier will move to Tulsa, Okla., to teach high school through the Teach for America program.
Sarah Petrak is a student assistant with the Office of Communications and New Media for SUNY System Administration. She is a studying Public Policy at the University at Albany.