Lunch buddy program provides students with mentorship opportunities – The Sunflower

There are opportunities you can’t have in class. That’s why Wichita State’s Inspyre classroom focuses outside of the classroom.

Students involved in the Inspyre Lab’s lunch buddy program have the opportunity to become undergraduate mentors for youth in the community.

Samantha Slade, a member of the psychology faculty, leads the class to research the importance of having mentors for young people. She has found that mentoring has a positive effect on young people’s lives.

“The goal is really to provide undergraduates with an applied learning experience and working with children in schools,” Slade said. “My research is really focused on improving the peer relationships of children in the school setting.”

Slade said the class is a two-way street — it not only benefits the mentors, but the mentees as well.

“The focus of the research is always looking at it from the perspective of students, like kids, how does it benefit them?” Slade said. “We find from our studies that it helps improve their peer acceptance and it can reduce things like bullying over time.

“I think for mentors it’s an experience, like learning to be with kids and learning to use some basic behavioral principles to try to shape behavior.”

Slade said there is evidence that proves the classroom positively affects students’ lives.

“We have empirical evidence that backs up the program, in addition to wanting it to, you know, just be an experiment for our students to gain more applied learning experience and working with children,” said Slade.

Inspyre lab coordinator Mackenna Snodgrass said this year has been a different, but better, experience than her time in the program.

“When I arrived, we were just writing letters to the children,” she said. “So this year is really my first year where I’ve been able to work with undergraduates going to school.”

Snodgrass focuses on communication between undergraduate students.

“We have meetings with our undergraduates, we have four per semester,” she said. “And it’s really really cool to hear them all talking together. So we will open it and allow them to solve problems between themselves.

“I kind of make sure everyone feels supported.”

Due to the design of the class, students cannot register as they would in a normal class.

Students must pass a background check and must also go through an interview process.

“During these interviews, we really give them a deeper insight into what the course is like,” Snodgrass said. “The second half of the interview is kind of like application questions. Like, ‘If a kid acted like that, how would you react?’ … To kind of get their point of view and see where they are at.