By Sloane M. Perron, Manager of Marketing Communications
Mike Morgan is an Assistant Professor in Anna Maria College’s Sports Management program who believes that leadership is taught through hands-on work in the community.
In 2018, Morgan began bringing senior Sports Management students in his Capstone class to Worcester Public Schools’ Academic Center for Transition (ACT) where Anna Maria College students make a daily impact on the lives of children who need extra support.
ACT is a therapeutic day school that provides clinical support and positive learning environments for students who are not ready to be in the generalized public-school population. After learning about ACT, Morgan saw that these elementary students were in need of role models and individuals who could relate to their life circumstances. As a result, Morgan’s Capstone class required Anna Maria students to provide mentorship to ACT students at least once a week. What began as a class requirement soon turned into strong bonds developing between the ACT students and Anna Maria students who willingly began to spend more time at the school.
“Part of the mission of the Sisters of Saint Anne is to produce students who serve the community,” Morgan said, “There is a need for it and our students are out there answering the call.”
Each week the ACT students look forward to Anna Maria students showing up to play sports with them during recess, read to them, or just be there to listen and let the children know that they are not alone. The sense of friendship that has developed between the two groups also helps ACT teachers motivate their students more.
“They’re like celebrities here,” ACT Program Director Thomas Lindgren said about the visiting Anna Maria students.
This year’s Capstone class has 11 Sports Management seniors who were divided up between 8 ACT classrooms ranging from kindergarten to 5th grade. Many ACT students have faced difficult life circumstances or traumatic events and often need a bit more support which Anna Maria students have naturally been able to provide in their role as mentors.
“Our very diverse student population sees a very diverse college population who are successful, respectful, and well-spoken, and they serve as role models,” Lindgren said, “It’s been really interesting to watch the relationships develop.”
Anna Maria College is the only higher education institution mentoring ACT students. The bond with Anna Maria’s 2023 graduating class and the ACT program was so strong this year, that both schools decided to plan a field trip.
Last week ACT 4th and 5th graders were invited to Anna Maria’s campus. The excursion marks the first field trip that ACT students have been on in over 6 years.
ACT students were welcomed by their Anna Maria mentors. Their college friends then gave them tours of Anna Maria’s campus, presented them with gift bags full of Anna Maria swag, and treated them to lunch at the Dining Hall.
The bonds made during the semester were evident as the elementary kids rushed to the college students who had become their friends. After a semester talking to each other, supporting one another, and finding similarities, the ACT students were excited to see how the “big kids” lived.
“I knew that visiting Anna Maria would be amazing, but it was even better than I thought it would be!” said Diovani Vasconselos, an ACT student.
The mentorship program has been so successful that Morgan and Lindgren are developing a partnership where all Anna Maria students could volunteer at the school. The goal is to create a full-year program rather than just limiting the program to the Spring semester.
“Experiential learning is key,” Morgan said, “It is very rewarding for our students to help children less fortunate than them. I am proud of their work as our students learn the true meaning of leadership.”