PSU mentors, Hazleton students and others celebrated at community center

No seat was left unused in the basement seminar room.

Andrea Kolb, the newly minted education coordinator, gave the opening speech to welcome everyone. By her side, Jorge Madera translated into Spanish every sentence she said.

Once the welcome was over, the two went to different ends of the audience.

Kolb held certificates and handed them out to the student-mentors, who included Bridget Festa, Maria Acevedo, Clarisa Capone, Kirby Donaldson, Sarah Zablotney, Allison Sands, Jennifer Lake, Caitlyn Ollendyke and Hailey Pletz.

Most of the mentors are early childhood education majors, including Festa, who comes from a long line of public educators. She, in fact, will be a third-generation teacher once she graduates. Others like Lake are art history majors.

After the mentors got their certificates, the after-school students were presented theirs for finishing “The Places and Faces of Hazleton” mural, a collage of the places and people the students saw as important to the Hazleton community.

The students then announced and gave their thanks to the places and people they featured in the mural. Those places included the Jumbo Family Buffet, the Hazleton One center and others, and the people included DeAndrea; Eugenio Sosa and Bob and Elaine Curry of the community center, and others.

Joe Maddon, the center’s founder, was also thanked and honored, but wasn’t present because, as Bob Curry joked, “He had a poor excuse for not being here. He is managing the Cubs in a baseball game in San Diego.”

The parents and families present were also given thanks for their support and were asked to stand for applause.

The finale began with Chaveley Perez, accompanied by her mentor, Festa, reciting her poem. Mia Cabrera followed Perez and sang her song, “Dollar General.”

Then the beat dropped, and then another beat dropped … since Nolasco didn’t like the first. And Nolasco cocked his head forward and took center stage.

It was the culmination of their work. Students hugged their mentors to show appreciation and reflected on the last two weeks.

“The Penn State students were very helpful and they were very fun,” said Janely Rosario, a student mentored by Donaldson. “And they are very awesome,” she smiled and then laughed.

Rosario said shyly that Michaels craft store is her significant place.

The student-mentors were very happy that they had taken part in the course, although it wasn’t always easy.

“Since it’s a two-week course, it’s very intense but so worth it,” said Sands.

Sands added that they would usually start at 9 a.m. and they would go to either an elementary or a middle school. They would observe their students, the teachers and the classroom atmosphere.

At 2:30 p.m., they would leave the school and head straight to the community center. Then they would prepare themselves before their students’ arrival. At 4 p.m., the mentors would help out the students with homework.

The students would leave at 5:30 p.m., and from then until 7:30, the mentors would receive a traditional lecture from their professor, Dr. Megan Hopkins.

Speaking of tough work, Zablotney had to deal with the anxiousness that came with students being fresh out of class. To get them to focus, she made her students do a “shadow project,” where the students are made to look at their shadows and they are told to write thoughts they have never revealed before.

But instead of making them write, Zablotney made them do 3-D masks to be part of their mural.

The hard work, though, brought a better understanding of multiple cultures in the classroom.

“We believe teachers should embrace bilingualism and believe that English Language Learners are assets to schools,” said Festa.

Overall, both mentors and community center officials appreciated all the work put into the last two weeks. And they were appreciative of the turnout.

Lake said she expected people to come but she didn’t expect that big of a crowd. She liked that the community was so involved in the event.

Capone thought the support was amazing and wished that level of attendance would’ve been there on a regular basis.

“It was nice to see so many members of the community feel strongly enough about being honored by our students that they make a special effort to be in attendance,” said Bob Curry. “It went better than we anticipated.

“This is something you’ll see again... you can believe it.”

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