Jenna Urso, '18, an all-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association performer in the midfield for the Albion College women's soccer team, is like the 'Hannibal' Smith character from The A-Team in that they love it when a plan comes together.
Among the plans that came together nicely for Urso was co-directing the college's mentoring program with students at Albion's Harrington Elementary School and Marshall Middle School. For her efforts, Urso was among the recipients of the Michigan Campus Compact's Commitment to Service Award.
Working with Emily Budlong, '19, Urso grew the program from 31 college mentors in 2015-16 to 78 this year.
"When Emily and I returned to campus last August we sat down with Lisa Bailey, the school counselor, and matched based on the skills the college mentors possessed with students at the elementary school based on the kid's needs," Urso said. "We considered what mentor could give the kid the best relationship and role model.
"Harrington is so close to campus that the students can see the impact they are making on the community," she added in talking about one of the reasons why so many students sought to be involved in the community service activity."
While the startup work of pairing mentors with the children, making sure background checks were complete and scheduling was the hard part, Urso said she and Budlong followed up to make sure the college students were maintaining their commitment to meeting with their child for an hour once a week as well as set up communication in the event a college mentor could not meet their commitment or to inform the college mentors of breaks in the school calendar.
"The kids expect it and consistency is key," Urso said. "The kids look forward to it, so we do not want to disappoint. These kids look up to us."
A biology who has a desire to help people, Urso got involved in the mentoring program after watching Candace Cullens, '16, direct the program her senior year. Cullens saw Urso's passion, including the way she encouraged her women's soccer teammates to get involved, so she asked her to take over as one of the leaders.
While understandably pleased with the growth in the number of college students willing to serve as a mentor, Urso says she is most proud of the relationship she has developed with her mentee, Alliyah, a fifth grader.
"My relationship with Alliyah is truly one of the greatest things I will take from my Albion College experience," Urso said. "She said she looks up to me (as a role model) during our last week together (for the school year). It was one of the best moments I've ever had and it definitely surpasses any award I can get. To know I've made a huge impact on someone's life. But she's made a huge impact on my life, too. She was there at soccer games cheering me on. It's cool to know relationships like that have formed because of this program."
As if heading the mentoring program was not enough, Urso is a member of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority and was one of the planners of the group's Turkey Trot, a run to benefit the philanthropy.
"There were times where I would go from one thing to the next all day, and then I would have to study," Urso said. "It was a lot, and it was stressful, but when everything comes together it makes it all worth it. When I see the relationships that were formed, and seeing how the kids are better because of the program, it makes everything worth it."
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