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Above, from left, Kircys Canela ’18 and Miesha Adams-Mclean ’18 lead MCLA’s E3 program. Below, Spencer Moser, director of MCLA’s Center for Service and Citizenship.

Sophomores Help Local Students in Need

05/12/16

Once a week, a group of local high school teens head to MCLA to learn skills to help them succeed in school and in life from two sophomores, Kircys Canela ’18 of New York City, N.Y., and Miesha Adams-Mclean ’18 of Boston, Mass. The pair lead the E3 (Effort, Employability and Essential skills and knowledge) program, run out of MCLA’s Center for Service and Citizenship.

Canela and Adams-Mclean not only plan the activities, they serve as mentors for the Drury High School students, most of whom are high school seniors who struggle with traditional studies.

“The biggest impact is the way they now view the world,” Adams-Mclean explained. “The students’ personalities are great. But, these were students that didn’t want to go to school anymore. They had a hard time completing high school. They needed to get back on track, graduate from high school, look to the future and think about attending a four-year or community college.”

To accomplish this, Adams-Mclean and Canela focus on leadership.

“Each week, we designate a couple of the students to lead their own icebreakers, so that they learn how to lead a group, and how to talk and communicate. They are building relationships among community members, with us, and with others at MCLA,” Adams-Mclean said.

“We help them realize that they’re all leaders and important to their community, both inside and outside of the classroom,” Canela said. “We try to help them learn new ways to work with each other and communicate with others.”

“The students are more outspoken now,” Canela continued. “They work better together as a team than they did in the beginning, because they’ve gotten to know each other through the activities we’ve created for them.”

This year, Canela and Adams-Mclean invited MCLA student-athletes from various sports teams to direct some activities with the teens. Relay races and scavenger hunts – combined with questions for the students to respond to – were designed to get E3 participants thinking about attending college.

As Adams-Mclean and Canela talk with the high school students about their MCLA experience – such as the clubs they belong to, the classes they take and the papers they write – the youth gain a better understanding of what college is all about.

“It makes me feel amazing to see them grow,” Adams-Mclean said. “I feel like I have an impact on their lives. I’m not only a leader and student-mentor on campus, I’m also a mentor outside of campus. I feel like I have a connection with them. I’ve met some of their parents. I let them know that they’re not alone. We are here for them. We care for them and want to support them.”

According to Spencer Moser, director of the Center for Service and Citizenship, MCLA’s E3 program was developed about five years ago, as a result of a service leadership capstone course.

“It took a couple semesters to find a good fit,” he said. “Many students carried the torch out of some very challenging times. It’s a great example of students creating opportunities for future students.

“It’s a powerful story,” Moser continued. “We wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the students who came before. And, three or four years from now, whoever tries to replace these two will be in a much better place because of the work they have done.”

Canela, who plans a career in global social work, said the experience has been very beneficial to her, as well.

“When I see the students grow, I know that if I can do it here, I can do it anywhere," she said. "It encourages me for when I become a social worker."