All photos: Paul Kuhne
Many students at the LBJ School of Public Affairs would say they came to this school to gain the skills and credentials to be able to make a difference in the future, and I would count myself in that group. But it’s important to remember that there are opportunities to make a difference right now. One such group are the MPAff and MGPS students who volunteer at Barbara Jordan Early College Prep (BJECP), an elementary school near the LBJ School. LBJ students have been mentoring students at BJECP over the past semester every two weeks with icebreaker games, outdoor play, and indoor learning. They’ve played capture-the-flag, and helped fifth graders research prominent black leaders in American history for Black History month.
The mentoring program expanded on an existing relationship between the two schools, and was spearheaded, organized, and managed, by first year LBJ Students Josh Meuth Alldredge and Juan Cardoza-Oquendo after they were connected to the BJECP Assistant Principal, Rudy Reyes, by members of the Graduate Public Affairs Council (GPAC). The elementary students in the program have challenging home environments and mentoring provides enrichment to boost their self esteem. Alldredge described his role as a mentor as providing “regular, supportive contact for the kids from adults outside of their normal home or school life.” When asked about what impact he’s seen over the course of the semester, Josh said “since we’ve only been with the kids for the semester, and we only see them every two weeks, it would be hard to measure any big academic or character changes. But we’ve seen the BJECP students open up to us, and most of them are now thrilled to jump into the projects and games. That openness is a big change from the beginning of the semester.”
LBJ students interested in mentoring should be able to commit to being present and ready to engage with your mentee for an hour and half every other week on campus at BJECP. Potential mentors should be creative and interested in designing and leading inclusive, educational, and fun activities for the group. It’s an easy way to give back to the community surrounding the LBJ School while we’re here, and avoid what Cardoza-Oquendo describes as “the LBJ bubble.”
If you’re interested in engaging with the community, supporting kids, and leaving the LBJ bubble to volunteer as a mentor, you should be on the lookout for recruiting events early in the fall semester. You can also speak to a current mentor to get their insight: Josh Meuth Alldredge, Juan Cardoza-Oquendo, Francisco Almanza, Josh Cuddy, Kendra Garrett, Paul Kuhne, Danny Leffler, Roosevelt Neely, Julian Plough, Alfonso Rojas, Teddy Velasquez, Katherine Whitton, and Caitlyn Yates.
Edited by: Whitney Allen