3/10/2014 7:33:03 AM
45 Years and Counting
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
By: Ericka Pier '14
Jim Snyder, director of the Mentoring Program, came to Siena College as a friar in 1964. During his first summer on campus he asked the Guardian of the Friary, Fr. Boniface Hanley, for advice on what to do since the campus was quiet and students were home for the summer.
“Hanley suggested beginning a summer program for underprivileged children,” Snyder said. At 28 years old, that is exactly what he did.
The summer mentoring program is celebrating its 45th year. It started with only 10 children and has grown to more than 85 this summer. College-age students serve as counselors or mentors to underprivileged children, ranging in ages from 7 to 14 from Albany, N.Y. When it first began, mentors would hitch-hike to and from Albany to pick up their “littles” and bring them to campus. The program has relied heavily on donations in order to stay running, and, in 1969, it received its first large donation, a school bus courtesy of Snyder’s brother.
“The bus was driven to campus by two cops from New York City and upon arrival the engine caught on fire and it had two flat tires,” Snyder said. A few years later, a pool was also donated to the program which Snyder, along with six students and a few friars, installed.
Over the years, the program has grown into one big family as some of the participants have parents who were once enrolled in Snyder’s program. This summer there are two 3-week sessions, featuring academic components such as reading, creative thinking and computer work. The same group of students remains part of the program during the academic year, too.
Linley Frankel ’13 and Devin Rigolino ’13 are serving as mentors. “This program has influenced me to want to work with low-income families. I love this program because you know everyone by first name,” Frankel, an aspiring social worker from Boston, Mass. said.
Rigolino, an environmental science major from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. came to Siena for service opportunities such as this. “You can feel the difference you make in these kids’ lives through this program,” he said.
Everyone involved agrees that it is the relationships and interactions that remain the foundation of the program, and continue to be the key aspects to its success. “I see the impact the program has had on kids. When I see them going to Siena and other colleges I’m proud of them,” Snyder said.
Fr. Hanley would have to agree.
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