Little Bruin Success
Reported by Jen Wright
Not many events at George Fox University (GFU) have seen an increase in interest this year, but the Spiritual and Intercultural Life (SpIL) center has an exception.
GFU’s “Little Bruins” program matches college students with kids in the local school community, to meet for an hour at least once per week for two months each semester. This gives GFU students opportunities to gain mentoring skills, and helps local kids feel more connected and confident.
Before the mandatory training, about 70 students showed interest in the Little Bruins program. About 55 people showed up to the training, and 30 students are currently connected in the program.
Senior Alex Embleton is the SpIL intern in charge of the program this year.
“When I reached out to the counselors, they really didn’t have a structure to do it anymore, so it kinda fell apart,” Embleton said.
Jamie Kitchen ran the program last year, and she had too many jobs to be able to run the program smoothly, Embleton said.
“That’s why I wanted to be the coordinator,” Embleton said. “I wanted to make it smoother for people trying to get connected.”
While volunteering, Embleton would walk to the Edwards Elementary School to meet with his “little bruin”.
“My Little Bruin in particular was very shy,” Embleton said, “we’d sit in this little counselor room off the main office, and I would sit in there and just talk to him. Sometimes he’d want to go out into recess; I would go out there and kind of hang out with him and hang out with other kids.”
“The main thing I learned from this experience freshman year was how to interact with a kid who doesn’t want to open up, because it took like six months for this kid to even really talk to me,” Embleton said.
Even though he didn’t see much progress while he was mentoring, Embleton eventually saw positive results.
“During the summer, I got mail from his counselor, with images he drew me, and I didn’t know that he had this connection with me at all, because he didn’t talk about it,” Embleton said. “I actually had an impact on this kid, even though I didn’t see it right away.”
Serve Day lasts just one day at GFU, but for the Little Bruins program, their motto is “Serve Year.”
“The whole point in what SpIL’s trying to do—Christian community development—is [to] really empower [GFU] to go out to the neighborhood and just be of service to the community,” Embleton said.
The GFU football team is making up a big part of the program this year, after coach Judd Stutsman encouraged the players to participate. Twenty-three athletes from the team are involved, and they are the only men in the program this year so far.
“When I did it freshman year, I was the only guy,” Embleton said. “A lot of SpIL programs…[are] pretty much all girls, so that’s one of our goals—to get more guys involved.”
Sophomore Adrienne Withington is involved in the program this semester, and has been meeting her “Little Bruin” at Mountain View Middle School.
“I have been spending time with one of the middle school students there and getting [to] know her,” Withington said. “It is an interesting opportunity because it gives you the chance to mentor a student while also communicating to school staff, like the counselors.”
Embleton wants to get more people from more majors involved in the program to give the kids a larger scope for inspiration.
“If people in those majors—football players, engineers, scientists, artists—could go to the elementary schools and show kids what they’re interested in studying, it gets kids interested in college, because they want to pursue the same career that they see someone older than them [pursuing],” Embleton said.
The next opportunity to get involved in the Little Bruins program is in January. The sign-up page can be found on the GFU website under Service and Ministry.