By Rachel Hartdegen, COM 250 Reporter
Edited by Hannah Draut, COM 303 Editor
ROME, Ga. – Berry College students volunteered with the North Broad Youth Center to mentor the youth of the Rome community as a part of the Bonner Scholars Program.
The Berry College Bonner Scholars Program allows recipients to earn their scholarship through volunteer work in their community. In their freshman year, these students are given a list of service sites to choose from, and the youth center is one of the places many Berry students choose.
The North Broad Youth Center is an after-school program run by Terri Mayes, pastor of Greater Refuge Ministries. Mayes joined the staff in April 2017 and has vastly restructured the program and learning environment since her arrival.
Every weekday, Bonner Scholars go to the youth center to not only educate the students but also to provide them with a safe space. The Berry College volunteers serve as a majority of the staff through their roles. While there, the volunteers help students with their homework, feed them a meal and give them opportunities to gain life skills.
“You can’t mention the youth center without mentioning Berry College,” Mayes said. “Berry supports the youth center in many ways.”
Along with helping the students with their studies, Mayes has the college students teach the children at the center the special skills that accompany the volunteers’ college majors.
“Students are still learning, but they’re learning while having fun,” said Mayes.
By incorporating the volunteers’ majors, Mayes is sure to make the volunteer experience beneficial for academic careers while it simultaneously fulfills the volunteering requirement for the Bonner scholarship. Volunteering at the youth center has also helped give many of the Bonner Scholars experience that will benefit their future careers.
Reanna Huskey, a junior at Berry College, has used her time volunteering with the center to prepare her for her future aspirations of being a counselor for children.
“Watching them grow is why I love to be here,” Huskey said. “One day I came in and was helping one of the students with his homework. For every problem he finished he got candy and, even though he hated doing homework, at the end he looked up at me and thanked me. It’s the small things.”
A junior at Berry College, Alina Somani, chose the North Broad Youth Center as her service site because it gave her great experience with children which has helped in preparing her for her future job in a children’s hospital.
Volunteering at the youth center has also given Berry students an opportunity to see the world outside of Berry, including the hardships some people face daily.
North Broad Youth Center volunteer Madeliene Guillen works with the preschool through first-grade children and witnessed first-hand the impact this after-school program has had on the children.
“I see Rome is really suffering, which a lot of Berry students don’t see outside of the Berry bubble,” Guillen said. “It is clear working at the youth center that there is still segregation between the minorities.”
These volunteers also witness the hardships many of the students face in their home lives and provide these students with a safe place to rest and an ear to listen.
“One of the girls that I tutor walked to North Broad and had a clear red mark on her face and was crying,” Somani said. “She told me her brother hit her. It’s my favorite memory because it shows that we are actually making a difference and building relationships here that matter.”
Mayes hopes to gain even more volunteers and workers for the youth center, and Berry College Bonner Scholars will continue to volunteer and make a difference in the Rome community.
“I read the sign leaving Berry that talks about leaving the world a better place and I think ‘Am I really making a difference?’ and I have to remind myself that the best thing I can give them [the children] is love,” Guillen said. “These kids are so worth loving and knowing.”