Lunch buddy program provides opportunities for students to mentor

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

Students involved in the Inspyre lab’s lunch buddy program get the opportunity to become undergraduate mentors to youth in the community. 

Psychology faculty member Samantha Slade runs the class to research the importance of having youth mentors. She found that mentorship had a positive effect on youths’ lives. 

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

Slade said that the class goes both ways — it benefits not only the mentors, but also the mentees. 

“The research lens always kind of examines it from the perspective of the students, like the children, how does this benefit them?” Slade said. “We see 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 experience, like learning how to be with children and learning kind of how to use some basic behavioral principles to try and shape behavior.”

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

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

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

“When I first came in, we were just writing letters to the kids,” she said. “So this year is really my first year that I’ve been able to work with undergraduates that are going to the school.”

Snodgrass focuses on the communication between the undergraduates. 

“We hold meetings with our undergraduates, we hold four a semester,” she said. “And it’s really really cool to hear them all talk together. So we’ll open it up and allow them to kind of problem-solve with each other.

“I’m kind of just making sure that everyone feels supported.”

Because of the design of the class, students cannot enroll like they would a normal class.

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

“During those interviews we are really giving them kind of a more in-depth look at what the course looks like,” Snodgrass said. “The second half of the interview is kind of like application questions. Like, ‘If a child acted like this, how would you respond?’ … To kind of get a perspective from them and see where they’re at.”