Buddy Program
Club & Greek

President Leahy teams with the Buddy and Me Program

University President Patrick Leahy, E.d.D. acted as a special guest at the Buddy & Me Celebration with a reading of What Do You Do With a Chance?, a children’s book by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom, on Nov. 20.

Fifty Long Branch elementary children, their teachers, and faculty and staff from the University campus sat enthralled as President Leahy read a story about the value of taking chances.

Buddy and Me is a service-learning partnership designed for first year students in the education department so that they can get experience in the field before starting their education program. Usually education majors do not get to work hands on with children until later in their college career, but through this partnership, students have the chance to see if teaching is the right choice for them. Elementary children that attended the celebration have had the opportunity of enjoying a Monmouth Buddy from first grade through fifth grade.

For Leahy, this was his first time participating in an event such as Buddy and Me. President Leahy has much respect and high regards for the school of education, so when they asked if he would come to read to the children, he knew right away it was something he had to do. He commented on the fact that he loves seeing events like Buddy and Me because it allows for the community to get to know Monmouth, whether its students or the president himself. “I am struggling with this: Do the little elementary kids get more out of it, or, do we adults get more out of it?,” he asked. “That’s one thing I really love about these events.”

The Departments of Curriculum & Instruction and Special Education held the Buddy and Me event, a celebration for service-learning. Buddy & Me celebrated with the children from Amerigo A. Anastasia and George L. Catrambone elementary schools. This event takes place every semester to celebrate the work that the Monmouth students and elementary school children do throughout the semester.

Ruth Morris, E.d.D., chair of Curriculum and Instruction for the School of Education, founded this program in the spring of 2017. John Henning, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Education, requested a service-learning program for students to experience the classroom during the freshmen year and confirm a career in education.  And that’s what Morris did; only she chose one with a literary focus because Morris said, “I have a deep passion for literacy.”

The Buddy and Me program was a way for Morris to connect not only to the classroom and students, but to what she had always done: teach.  She partnered with Markus Rodriguez, a student advisor and interventionist, whose job it is to get children what they need.

“Mr. Rod,” as the kids call him, believes the biggest benefit of the Buddy and Me program is connection. Rodriguez said, “At the end of the day, what the world needs is to be able to connect more.” 

Through this program, the elementary students are taught how to make connections, how to trust, and how to understand, and that is the biggest thing learned in this program. Mr. Rod and Dr. Morris refer to the Buddy & Me partnership as “planting a small acorn that is growing into a tall oak tree.”

 In 2018, Vice Principal Michelle Merckx invited the Buddy & Me students to mentor children at the George L. Catrambone Elementary School. Buddy & Me service-learning partnership mentors elementary students in two neighboring elementary schools five days each week. The program continues to expand and is now supporting parents.

New Jersey Literacy Volunteers of America has partnered with buddy & Me and the Long Branch School District to offer English language classes to 30 parents each Tuesday and Thursday evening. Christina Barlik, a former buddy, had wished for support for parents. Her dream came true and now entire families in the Long Branch schools are able to access support.

The Buddy and Me celebration allows students to experience something they may never have had the chance to, had not been for this program.  Many of these children come from a low economic background, some not knowing where their next meals are coming from. This celebration gives children a chance to forget that even just for a little while and enjoy themselves.

PHOTO TAKEN by Shannon McGorty