For those who imagine that college students are a frivolous bunch who concentrate their energies on late night partying and last minute studying, the members of the SMART project are a refreshing reminder that many students at UNC don’t fit that stereotype. Although they may be partiers who study at the last minute, SMART students devote significant time to helping local kids. SMART is a service learning program at UNC that gives students class credit for serving as mentors through Volunteers for Youth over the course of the academic year. SMART mentors get together with the kids they are matched with one-on-one and bring them to campus to participate in activities designed to introduce them to new experiences in a college setting.
Patrick Mateer, a sophomore economics and political science major, has been making time for his eight-year-old mentee since the start of the semester. Together, the two have explored the town of Chapel Hill on their bicycles, going to get frozen yogurt, visiting a fire station, and playing at several different playgrounds. While his mentee is learning from Patrick, the experience is beneficial for Patrick as well, helping him connect to the community and be more than just a visitor while he goes to school here.
Patrick reflects, “The SMART program has really helped me connect with my mentee and lay the ground work to build a strong relationship. My mentee has become much more confident on the road with his bike and learned to move around Chapel Hill without a car or needing to be driven. He has taught me to be very clear about communication when you talk to someone who may not share your cultural norms. SMART has been very rewarding in my life at UNC. I feel much more connected to the community and I care more about the town’s policies and decisions because they affect my mentee. It also feels great to give a child experiences he or she may not have otherwise, especially things that you know you enjoyed as a child. Great times create these memories which will stay with him forever.”
Category: 30 Years