by Barbara Garland –

A group of SoS members recently visited on a typical P.A.S.S. day. Students from Southwestern University’s Delta Omicron music fraternity met with students from the Boys and Girls Club to teach the youngsters about music. The lesson plan stated that the students should learn to identify multiple musical instruments, to understand the basics of sheet music, to understand pitch, and to construct his/her own Mbira, an African thumb piano. What really happened was a fun interactive hour between the Southwestern University students and both Tippit and Wagner middle schoolers, all who were eager to learn more.

The P.A.S.S. pilot program (a partnership between Southwestern University and First United Methodist Church) was designed with two goals in mind, according to P.A.S.S. director, Alex Garcia-Ellis: 1) to provide a leadership program for Southwestern University students who wanted to work in service to the community; 2) to provide a quality experience on a college campus for disadvantaged students who were interested in a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) program.

All the P.A.S.S. lessons are tied to teaching standards. There are written lesson plans and hands-on experiences. However, the most valuable parts of the experience for all of the students, both the Southwestern and the middle-school students, are the interactions between the two groups. The Southwestern students learn valuable lessons about mentoring and community service. The younger students have mentors to look up to and a way to see themselves on a college campus when they are older.

Of the four Southwestern students leading the program, at least three are first generation college students. They see themselves in the younger students who attend the P.A.S.S. program and want to share their knowledge and experiences and to show the younger students that college is possible.

At the end of each session the younger students are asked to share either an AHA moment, an apology, or an appreciation. As each participating student shared, it was obvious that in sharing these moments, each student was coming to a deeper, richer idea of his/her own potential in relationship to the opportunities that might exist for him/her in the coming years.

NOTE: As the parameters of the original P.A.S.S. program unfolded at implementation, it became evident there were logistical issues that made the original plan unworkable. As a result of meetings between SoS liaisons and the grantees, a more tailored program was developed, which decreased the funding amount necessary. The excess funds have been returned to Seeds of Strength to be used for future grants.