Enrichment program back on campus

One group was given the chance to drive a robot with a remote across the lab floor during the Robotics Minor for the middle schoolers.

Allegheny College’s Enrichment Program returns this semester after COVID-19 forced the program to halt for a few years. The Enrichment Program is one of the many internships Allegheny offers that gives students the opportunity to work with children. One section of the program involves middle schoolers, and the other involves high schoolers.
The Enrichment Program started in 1999, according to Instructor of Dance and Movement Studies and Director of the Enrichment Program Betsy Sumerfield. High school students come to campus and choose three classes for the day. The middle school students experience a “major” and several “minors” for subjects of interest. Both college professors and community members teach the classes, with Allegheny student interns as aids in the classroom.
“The program is all about teaching kids to think outside the box and to expose them to different subjects that they might not have at their own school, and it hopefully interests them about college,” said Office of Registrar Service Coordinator Chris Bell. “Hopefully, we find a future student out of the group.”
Up until a few years ago, the program had only a high school section, but Jill Hyatt, ’19, a teacher at Crawford County School District and coordinator for the Enrichment Program took on a fifth year internship at Allegheny College and used that time to establish a section for middle school students during her time working with the Enrichment Program.
“The reason why we want to expand it is to let the students know that there are different ways to be able to learn and it’s not all just sitting at a desk and having a teacher talk at you,”
Hyatt said. “That’s why they come here and there’s different ways of learning — you can get up, you can move, you can talk, you can have discussions.”
The students selected to join the program are a part of the Individualized Education Program, which is made for middle and high schoolers with modified education. Also involved are students who are willing to “jump through the hoops to join” in terms of grades and classroom behavior, according to Sumerfiend. It is important to the administrators that the child is capable of coming to Allegheny’s campus as a guest in regards to being responsible and clean with the space they use, as it affects the campus students and staff.
Allegheny College administrators are especially passionate about the program because of how it supports not just the Meadville community, but the college itself and the administrators’ children, according to Executive Director of Economic, Civic and Community Engagement Andy Walker, ‘00.
“They have various courses,” Walker said. “My sons are actually participating. My middle schooler is in ‘Gamification,’ a course about board games that they’re exposed to and how they’re made. My high schooler is taking a sign language course, along with bridge-playing and civil disobedience. There is a broad array of opportunities for learning with the program.”
Allegheny College not only has parents with children who participate in the Enrichment Program — President Ron Cole, ’87, and Walker’s kids, for instance, Hyatt explained — but also has Allegheny students who went through the program.
“I was one of the students who went through the program in middle and high school,” said Enrichment Program Head Intern Samuel Ault, ’26. “I was involved up until it got canceled during my 10th grade year due to COVID. I spent my mornings building underwater robots that I had to take out onto Lake Erie eventually for my major while I was in the middle school program and got involved with a lot of activities.”
Although COVID put a halt to the program for a few years, it was easy to gain support to get it running again, according to Walker. The local community and the college benefits from the program, but it is starting off with a “scaled-down version,” involving 90 high school students and 120 middle school students. Prior to COVID, there used to be on average 200 students per program, according to Hyatt. Sumerfield explained that it has been scaled back just to get it going again, as there is a lack of middle and high schoolers that have experienced the program due to COVID.
“There’s three participating school districts in Crawford County, so it’s just a great experience for those students to receive the opportunity of enrichment programming classes and things they might not get in their typical school day,” Walker said.
Ault said that the staff involved intend to help get the kids excited to be in class and learn in unconventional ways. Instead of giving lectures, the kids are often doing things or having discussions in order to convey that there is more than one way to teach and learn.
“The interns and administrators go with a group of middle or high schoolers all day,” Hyatt said. “They’re with them in their classes, in between classes, getting the middle schoolers to and from class, and just being involved in the class to really increase excitement and comfort levels for the students. I’m especially excited to see how it goes this semester.”