MBU Students Impact Teens

It all started when “Mr. Eddie” Santiago went back to school.

The Teen Center supervisor at the Staunton-Augusta Family YMCA, Santiago addressed a classroom full of Mary Baldwin University students who were pursuing social work as a career.

In the presentation, Santiago talked about growing up in Jersey City, New Jersey and how he was working to create the program at the YMCA he needed as a kid.

It made the quite the impact on the classroom, and two weeks later a large number of those students became volunteers in the classroom.

“He was very welcoming,” said Deja Clifton, who came to MBU from Portsmouth. “And he seemed very dedicated to the program.”

The students are learning a ton in classes to prepare for their careers, but actually getting to work with kids has MBU student Janet Arevalo reinforce her passion for her chosen major.

“I feel like sometimes I need to reconnect with why I want to be a social worker, said Arevalo, who grew up in Washington D.C. “Coming down here reminds me why I’m doing this and why I chose this career. I’m very grateful for the YMCA.”

The volunteers represent just one of many ways the university has had a positive impact on the YMCA. The Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences students have been instrumental in their volunteering in the YMCA’s Neuro-Wellness program, and MBU senior Jessica Hall recently presented her senior thesis on a YMBU program that would introduce YMCA Teen Center kids to college life through an on-campus “Mind, Heart & Hustle” program.

In the Teen Center, It didn’t take long for the MBU volunteers to have an impact.

“I knew I’ve always wanted to help people,” said Jay Melendez, a social work student from Miami, FL. “At first I didn’t know what to do or what to say, but I just learned you have to meet them where they are at.”

The volunteers have embraced the opportunity to be role models for the YMCA Teen Center kids.

“My experience has been great so far,” Clifton said. “I feel like I’m building a close relationship with the kids, and I’m here as a role model to guide them.”

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