The students from the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club may be a bit too young to apply to college or get a job, but not too young to start thinking about college and a career.
They did a lot of the latter this semester during several visits to HCC, touring the campus and learning what it's like to be a college student.
Their tour guides and tutors were HCC students engaged in a Service Learning project through their English 101 class with instructor Jonathan Gould. The HCC students made reciprocal visits to the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club on several occasions to talk to the youngsters about their interests and ambitions and play games that incorporated college-related vocabulary.
Gould said the Service Learning project is based on a career exploration unit he built into his class.
"If college students have a sense of what they want to do after college they tend to be more motivated," he said, "so a lot of what we're doing with the students from the boys and girls club is kind of mirroring the career exploration work my students have been doing in class."
At HCC, the boys and girls had a chance to eat in the cafeteria and get an inside look at the college radio station. They had a lot of personal conversations with their new college friends. During their final visit to campus last week, they played charades.
"It's good for them to get an understanding of what it takes to be a college student and what the expectations will be," said James Lightfoot, director of teen services and college prep work for the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club. "They're in elementary and middle school moving toward the pathway of high school and then college and hopefully they get some knowledge of what they need to do to get to this level and beyond."
Bill Guarnera, a secondary education major from Easthampton, spent the final day talking to 14-year-old Brandon Gonzalez about career plans. Gonzalez wants to be a police officer, Guarnera a teacher.
"This has been kind of a reminder to me that I'm in the field for the right reasons," Guarnera said.
PHOTOS by CHRIS YURKO: (Left) Khalil Williams, 10, plays charades with HCC students from Jonathan Gould's English 101 class. (Right) Brandon Gonzalez, 14, shakes hands with HCC student Cameron Lanza of Agawam during a visit to HCC.