BU pilots leadership institute for migrant students

For immediate release: June 15, 2009

BLOOMSBURG — Pennsylvania's first migrant leadership institute for middle school students will bring 25 youths to Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania from June 21 to 26.

The pilot program, a collaboration of BU and the Pennsylvania Department of Migrant Education, builds on BU's migrant community project, which has served mostly younger students for the past 13 years, said Jean Downing, director of BU's SOLVE volunteer office. Both programs provide supplemental educational and support services to migrant children.

According to Caryn Terwilliger, BU's interim associate dean of the College of Education, the migrant middle school students will participate in workshops, field trips and discussions to promote leadership, civic responsibility, communication skills, critical thinking and personal development. They will live in the residence halls and eat in Scranton Commons.

While the youths are learning about leadership, 16 BU education majors will gain experience working with individuals whose backgrounds are different from their own. The students, along with BU faculty, will lead the institute as part of a 3-credit practicum.

Terwilliger said this diversity initiative provides BU's teacher candidates the opportunity to work with diverse populations and to develop multicultural perspectives for better understanding the role of diversity in the teaching and learning process. The BU students planned the institute’s activities and completed academic readings and focused reflections as course requirements. They also will receive training from BU's Quest program so they may lead outdoor adventure activities for the middle school students.

"This is a great learning opportunity for our students and for the migrant families. They will learn with and from each other," said Terwilliger. "These children would probably not be thinking about going to college. The mentoring from our college students in this environment will allow them to learn about a college campus while developing skills and building confidence through leadership and communication."

Downing said BU was invited to pilot the leadership institute for middle school students by Sue Stetler, project manager of the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit's migrant education program. The program is supported financially by a BU Foundation Margin of Excellence award. It is also made possible through student scholarships provided by the BU Student Pennsylvania State Education Association and funding from the state migrant education program.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 8,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Professional Studies, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.