SEAD ends summer mentorship session

by Emilia Baldwin | 7/21/16 6:38pm

This year’s Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth program, or SEAD, concluded last Friday after two weeks. The program seeks to help high performing high school students from lower-income backgrounds succeed in both high school and college, according to the organization’s website. The organization recruits Dartmouth students as volunteers and year round interns to act as mentors and academic coaches for the program, which has taken place in Hanover for two weeks every July since 2001.

This year, 23 students participated in the program, completing their fourth and final SEAD session.

Jake Rost ’18 said that he first heard of the program from some friends in the grade above. He said that he has always thought that the program seemed like a great way to break out of Dartmouth’s insular culture during sophomore summer.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but it really helps you break out of the Dartmouth bubble that we live in and connects you with people from all different backgrounds,” he said.

Two other students, Gina Campanelli ’18 and Angelina Lionetta ’18, also cited connecting with high school students from outside the area as a draw for the program. Lionetta became especially close with her mentee, saying that she thinks that they will keep in touch for years to come. She added that it “warms her heart” to have had an effect, however minimal, on these students’ lives.

Campanelli also became close to her mentee and said that she and her mentee text often about various subjects, academic and otherwise.

She added that one of the program’s strengths is its ability to provide stability to students who often do not experience it, since students attend the program for four consecutive years, starting after their freshman year.

Savannah Moss ’18 further explained the logistics of the program and said that this year’s graduating class was especially focused on getting ready for their upcoming first year of college. Last summer, she said, they all applied to college. She also said that beyond the sophomore volunteers, there are also interns who work for the program year round.

Moss, who is an education minor, originally heard of the program in one of her education classes. She said that she wanted to apply because she wanted to make a difference and because the program is generally low commitment for the volunteers. Each academic tutor has to attend a minimum of two of the academic sessions each week, which function like a traditional study hall. Still, Moss said, it is clear that the high school students are impacted positively even by this small commitment.

The program also provides SAT preparatory courses, in addition to a plethora of seminars on topics discussing everything from the effects of racism to the electoral process, according to a July 18 Dartmouth Now article.This year, for example, students attended a lecture on the politics of poverty given by Charles Wheelan ’88, Nelson Rockefeller lecturer and policy fellow. Moss said that the lecture discussed the effects of structural racism.

Moss emphasized that the goal of the program is not to get the students into Dartmouth. Rather, the program provides talented students from all over the country with the opportunity to attend college, a possibility that may not otherwise be available to many of the participants.

Rost said that he really could see how much the program meant to many of the participants during the graduation early this month, saying that it was evident that the program had added to the triumphs of the recent graduates.

All students interviewed echoed Rost’s sentiments, saying that they were satisfied with the outcome of their participation in the program. Lionetta said that while she thought that SEAD would be like any other volunteer opportunity when she applied in the spring, the program added more meaning to her sophomore summer than she had expected.

While all of the students interviewed were overall pleased with their experiences, they cited issues like miscommunication and the lack of continuity with the volunteers as areas for improvement. Campanelli said that there were instances in which she would show up to an academic session, only to find out that her mentee was doing another activity.

Rost pointed out that it can be hard for academic coaches and mentors to connect with their mentee, as the program only lasts for two weeks and the volunteers change with every sophomore class. Still, Rost and Campanelli cited these weaknesses as minor and said that they did not detract from the overall experience.