A Day in the Life
More local youth get to experience ‘a
day in the life’ of U.Va. students
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
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
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.
aims to assist young students who have demonstrated academic potential
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
only on skills for completing homework and reading, but also on setting
longer-term goals and building self-
esteem and confidence in the process.
|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.
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
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.
wanted to instill in students ‘habits of reflection and correct
action, rendering them examples of virtue to others, and of happiness within
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
Both parents and U.Va. mentors have taken opportunities to
go out of their comfort zones, coordinator Marlene Lewis
they’ve asked to have more interaction
than one social event a semester and separate advisory council meetings.
think walls are coming down and shells have been broken,” said Lewis.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
community outreach consultant, and other Curry School faculty are discussing
ways to enlist U.Va. student participation for targeted efforts such as science
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.