May 28-June 10, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 10
Back Issues
Finals Weekend 2004
Miksad to leave deanship
Wadley named 2004 inventor of the year
Headlines @ U.Va.
General Assembly roundup
Smackdown your vote
College strikes a high-tech deal with Microsoft and Thomson Learning
A Childhood Dream Come True
A Day in the Life
University’s busiest gym to debut new addition
The Ultimate Guide to Getting the Career You Want
Ring CMC telethon phones for 20th year
Museum having 30th birthday party
A Day in the Life
More local youth get to experience ‘a day in the life’ of U.Va. students
Day in the Life program
Photos by Michael Bailey
“In the Day in the Life Program, every minute is an opportunity to learn,” said Rydell Payne, a member of the program’s community advisory committee and executive
director of Charlottesville Abundant Life Ministries. At the South 1st Street Community Center, children concentrate on homework and reading first, outside with a book and their U.Va. tutor, Paige Davis, from the Curry School.

By Anne Bromley

This past year, it took one education professor saying “yes” to almost triple the size of U.Va.’s “Day in the Life” mentoring program. The program expanded from pairing about 70 to nearly 200 U.Va. students with city youth.

Curry School associate professor Robert Covert revamped the service-learning component of his multicultural education class to encourage his students to participate in the Day in the Life Program. Started in 2001 by the Office of Community Relations in part to improve town-gown relations, A Day in the Life finished its third year with two new schools, Walker Upper Elementary and Charlottesville High School, added to the one where it began, Buford Middle School.

The purpose of the Day in the Life Program is to give local school children a new appreciation for education, through working with caring, committed U.Va. undergraduates who share their collegiate and academic experiences. The program aims to assist young students who have demonstrated academic potential but for various reasons are not succeeding yet.

Pairs of U.Va. student mentors and mentees meet regularly, at school or at after-school community centers, for tutoring and academic support. They work together not only on skills for completing homework and reading, but also on setting longer-term goals and building self-
esteem and confidence in the process.

Day in the Life program
The Day in the Life Program has inspired parents, as well as students, to praise its positive impact: “Without Day in the Life, [my son] would still be lost and leading an unstructured and unfocused life,” wrote one mother.

The local youth also spend about half of their time on Grounds, going to University spots, like dorms and dining halls, and attending athletic, cultural and social events with their older mentors.

“The expansion of the Day in the Life Program reflects the University’s commitment to community service. It also reflects founder Thomas Jefferson’s conviction that the University’s purposes should be rooted in the center of society,” said University President John T. Casteen III.

“Jefferson wanted to instill in students ‘habits of reflection and correct action, rendering them examples of virtue to others, and of happiness within themselves.’”

Covert added that the program enables U.Va. students “to reach out into the community to give, to share and to learn firsthand the finer points of multicultural diversity and how to build bridges to better race relations.”

The U.Va. students are asked to keep journals of their experiences and write papers based on their reflections, already requirements in Covert’s multicultural education class. The younger students have similar assignments. The writings are also used in annual program assessments.

Getting parents of the local youth involved is another ongoing component that reaps several benefits, including sharing information and developing relationships. Both parents and U.Va. mentors have taken opportunities to go out of their comfort zones, coordinator Marlene Lewis said, and they’ve asked to have more interaction than one social event a semester and separate advisory council meetings.

“I think walls are coming down and shells have been broken,” said Lewis.

Bob Covert
education guru

Jesus Christ. A ZZ Top band member. A homeless man. When associate education professor Robert Covert has asked the students in his multicultural education class in the Curry School of Education to tell him their first impression of him, those are some of the responses he’s gotten, he says with a grin that peaks out of his long beard of light brown and gray.

This guru of multicultural education has been giving students the opportunity to become more aware of their fellow human beings and take responsibility for treating them with respect for more than decade, regularly providing one of the few courses offered that focuses on teaching — or rather, learning — about diversity firsthand.

He said former students still call him out of the blue to tell him how they use what they learned in his class in their everyday lives.

From the start, Covert doesn’t just lecture to his students about multicultural education. Since he began teaching the class at the Curry School, he has led the students through examining their beliefs, their stereotypes and their misunderstandings, as well as those of society. The students – about 150 in three sections each semester – form smaller groups for discussions. His class tends to be more mixed than the U.Va. population, with about one third African-American, one third Asian-American and other minorities, and one third Caucasian students, he said. He also tends to get many of the student leaders.

“They really learn to think for themselves, instead of regurgitating information from the professor. We change the emphasis here. Every person has to get the opportunity to speak each week and has to be willing to speak,” Covert said.

They also get hands-on experience by completing a required social-action component. This year he changed that part of the syllabus to get the students involved in the University’s volunteer program, “A Day in the Life,” which pairs U.Va. students with local middle- and high-school students to show them what college life is like, as well as to provide mentoring and tutoring.

She mentioned one mother who was “ecstatic” about her son’s response after he was paired with U.Va. basketball guard Todd Billet. Leslie Scott said her son turned 180 degrees in his academic attitude.

Scott, who is Buford’s PTO president, said, “This type of relationship leaves an indelible mark on the lives of these young people. The DITL program is key in introducing Buford students to college life and planting the seed for obtaining their future goals. … [The mentoring students] have been visible at the school and in the community, they have followed up on requests and questions, and most important, they have listened and responded to the needs of our community.”

For his part, Billet said, “My particular experience with Chris Scott was terrific. I was able to meet and spend time with Chris, his family and friends. I think both of us were able to learn and grow off of one another, because he experienced a part of my life and vice versa, during the program.

“I think the underlying aspect of the success of the Day in the Life Program is that people share experiences, time and friendship on a consistent basis to promote multiculturalism on so many different levels — age, race, education level, gender, socio-economic status and family traditions.”

Sean C.D. Colbert-Lewis, a Curry School doctoral student, has been the graduate teaching assistant in charge of coordinating Covert’s students and working with the staff — Donald Blake, Loren Intolubbe-Chmil and others.

Colbert-Lewis, who is concentrating on social studies education and policy and women’s studies, said the experience, which he’ll take on again next year, helped him realize he could handle “big tasks and coordinate with other departments at U.Va. — skills that I need to master if I wish to be a future, successful college professor, let alone a Ph.D. recipient.

“Also, having the opportunity to take part in training undergraduate students to be social activists has been a great legacy to have come out of the Day in the Life Program,” said Colbert-Lewis. “Seeing the U.Va. student community work with young citizens … makes [me] proud to be a part of it!”

The Day in the Life Program is still growing. Summer programs, such as tours of several college campuses, are being planned. Don Blake, the program’s community outreach consultant, and other Curry School faculty are discussing ways to enlist U.Va. student participation for targeted efforts such as science fair projects.

Blake said he’d like to double the numbers of participants again next year. He said about half the children in Charlottesville schools could use this kind of youth-development program.


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