Submitted by Anna Stowell Belyaev ’91
In 1991, Lawrence received a $10,000 grant from Campus Compact to start the Lawrence Assistance Reaching Youth (LARY) program, a one-on-one, needs-based mentoring program for students at Edison Elementary School in Appleton. Since then, the LARY program has matched more than 700 students with Lawrence mentors. Anna Stowell Belyaev ’91 was among the first LARY volunteers. Twenty years later, she has shared her memories of the experience and the many ways it has enhanced—and continues to enhance—her life.
Since graduating from Lawrence in 1991, I have made a career of helping organizations develop online courses of one kind or another: virtual classrooms, web-based training, mobile learning. The terms change with the times and technologies, but the fundamental challenge remains the same—can an online experience ever replace the kind of engagement you get from being there?
That’s a tough question for a gal who could say she owes her success largely to participation in a single program during her senior year in college!
The LARY program paired Lawrence students with elementary school kids whose teachers felt could use a college “buddy.” It got a lot of campus press due to its affiliation with the Thousand Points of Light Foundation George H. W. Bush had promoted during his inauguration speech (it was named the nation’s 312th Point of Light).
Volunteers were to spend one hour a week with a buddy—30 minutes tutoring at the elementary school, and 30 minutes doing something fun together. For that, we’d get two T-shirts and a $65 allowance.
Neither Tanya, my buddy, nor I recall the exact day we met. She reports strongly recalling the feelings that came with it—the excitement of getting a person “all to herself,” the fear of
“not being good enough.”
I mostly recall the days before we met—the application process that required writing an essay explaining why I’d be a good buddy for an “at-risk” kid and the night social workers came on campus to prepare us for what we might encounter working with our buddies.
That training came in handy a few weeks later, when I found myself trying to teach math to a student who was temporarily homeless and suffering from trauma, lead poisoning and undiagnosed ADHD.
That training also armed me to take swift leadership action many times over the past 20 years, not only for Tanya, but for my students, step-children and other kids in need. Arguably, it later earned me a prestigious “Woman to Woman Making a Difference” award from Illinois State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka.
Tanya credits the LARY program for setting her on a life path in which a college education and “beating the odds” in other ways was even imaginable, saying “I have so many memories of good times at Lawrence! Hanging out in the darkroom of the brand new Wriston Art Center where Anna was taking a photography class, doing belly flops off the high dive into the swimming pool in the Buchanan-Kiewit Wellness Center swimming pool, sledding down Union Hill on lunch trays, working on homework together in the Seeley G. Mudd library, listening to George Winston in her dorm room…” She hopes the teacher who recommended her will be proud to learn she earned a B.S. in clinical psychology from Edgewood College and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work, while working as a licensed substance abuse counselor and completing an internship at a women’s domestic abuse shelter.
I credit the LARY program for sparking the thought I consider a secret ingredient to my success as a learning leader: the realization that knowledge was never going to be enough for Tanya, any more than it is, in fact, ever enough for any of us, or any organization. What makes the difference is what moves us.
Twenty years after meeting via the inaugural LARY program and becoming lifelong friends, buddies Anna and Tanya have begun writing a book to share their story with others.
Megan Childs ’12, LARY Buddy program coordinator on the importance of the program:“The younger students, or ‘little buddies,’ are recommended for the program for a variety of reasons—they may have familial difficulties, a learning disability or trouble relating to peers. Whatever the reason, they are young people who crave the attention and example of an older role model. They need a person in their lives who will consistently and patiently listen to them, model good character and good decisions for them, and let them know that they are valuable. They also think college students are really cool! Lawrence students get to come in and be that person for their little buddy. Being a mentor is a privilege and a responsibility. It challenges us to be the best we can be, because we know that our little buddy is counting on us—and paying close attention to the things we say and do. And in the end, seeing the changes that gradually happen in a little buddy—in their confidence, attitude and achievements—is just an incredibly rewarding experience.”