SHU's Mentor Program Builds Up Local Middle School Children

FAIRFIELD, Conn.—Before the current pandemic forced schools to close, 28 Sacred Heart University students were mentoring 36 middle school youth at John Winthrop School in Bridgeport through SHU’s Jones-Zimmermann Academic Mentoring Program (AMP). Despite the disruption, interviews are underway now for the next set of mentors.

Sacred Heart students apply to participate in AMP through the Office of Volunteer Programs & Service Learning when they are sophomores. The Jones-Zimmermann foundation funds the after-school program, which helps young people maintain academic success with the help of their SHU mentors. Each mentor meets with the same two students twice a week during the youngsters’ middle school years. 

Madison Zammarelli, AMP’s coordinator and SHU graduate student majoring in strategic communications and public relations, said the sessions begin with homework and academic enrichment. Afterward, there are games of kickball or dodgeball or hoops in the gym. There are craft activities too: gingerbread houses during the holidays and Valentine mailboxes in February, along with snow globes, sand jars, stress balls and slime. Members of SHU’s biology club visited one afternoon and helped the students create lava lamps. 

“Before I started, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Zammarelli, 23, of Lincoln, RI. “I knew it was a great program. I just didn’t know how great, and I didn’t know I would leave AMP with so many memories.”

John Winthrop students enjoy being in AMP and see it as a privilege, as they get special one-on-one time with their college mentors. 

The mentors must have certain qualities, such as patience, kindness and sensitivity. Most importantly, they must want to make a difference in a child’s life. The SHU mentors learn how to work as a team and build lasting bonds with the middle school students.

Although the semester was cut short—the group never had the chance to complete Winthrop’s community garden, or go on end-of-the year field trips—next year’s SHU mentors and Winthrop mentees are look forward to continuing their partnerships when the schools reopen. 

For more information, visit the AMP webpage.

PHOTOS: Sacred Heart University students mentor children at Winthrop School in Bridgeport.



About Sacred Heart University

As the second-largest independent Catholic university in New England, and one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., Sacred Heart University is a national leader in shaping higher education for the 21st century. SHU offers more than 80 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs on its Fairfield, Conn., campus. Sacred Heart also has satellites in Connecticut, Luxembourg and Ireland and offers online programs. More than 9,000 students attend the University’s nine colleges and schools: Arts & Sciences; Communication, Media & the Arts; Social Work; Computer Science & Engineering; Health Professions; the Isabelle Farrington College of Education; the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology; the Dr. Susan L. Davis & Richard J. Henley College of Nursing; and St. Vincent’s College. Sacred Heart stands out from other Catholic institutions as it was established and led by laity. The contemporary Catholic university is rooted in the rich Catholic intellectual tradition and the liberal arts, and at the same time cultivates students to be forward thinkers who enact change—in their own lives, professions and in their communities. The Princeton Review includes SHU in its Best 385 Colleges–2020 Edition, “Best in the Northeast” and Best 252 Business Schools–2019 Edition. Sacred Heart is home to the award-winning, NPR-affiliated radio station, WSHU, a Division I athletics program and an impressive performing arts program that includes choir, band, dance and theater. www.sacredheart.edu


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