College students who volunteer at the Mary Randall Preschool on campus brighten the days of the preschool students they work with. The college volunteers are able to act as companions and mentors to the preschoolers, according to director of the preschool Sonja Bindus. The preschool has a “college helper” board which lets the preschoolers know which college students are volunteering and when.
The Mary Randall Preschool is a familiar building for the students on campus. Located between Mauck Hall and Howard Music Hall, it serves as an on-campus school for young children. But it also offers a place for many Hillsdale students to volunteer. The preschool has a program for college students to play with the younger students and even try their hand at some teaching. Also, college students are able to earn volunteer hours at Mary Randall.
Since its founding in 1929, David Trout, the psychology professor who founded the preschool, had college students in mind.
“He thought it would be beneficial to have a facility where college students could observe child development firsthand,” Bindus said in an email.
Faculty and staff often send their children there, but parents from the Hillsdale community also enroll their children at Mary Randall.
The program now has nearly 50 preschoolers, according to Bindus.
“The first preschool class included six preschool students, and college students from the psychology department and the Domestic Science department worked under the direction of Miss Scott, the first Director of the preschool (then named College Nursery School),” Bindus said in an email. “College students have remained an integral part of the preschool success.”
College students are able to volunteer in order to fulfill required hours for HTA scholarships, as well as anything else that might require volunteer work. Students who minor in early childhood education or classical education also help at the preschool.
“Others volunteer simply because they need a ‘brain break,’” Bindus said in an email. “As volunteers provide valuable time and talents to our preschool students, the college students receive laughter, joy, and love from the preschoolers. This reciprocity is unique and valuable to the success of our program.”
The volunteer program also helps college students with their homesickness, according to Bindus.
“We have had students referred to us from the deans and the health services team,” Bindus said in an email. “Many of our students come from large families or have younger siblings at home. Working at the preschool provides a similar role for them on campus.”
Mary Rumler, head teacher at the preschool, echoed Bindus’ thoughts.
“No experience is necessary to be a volunteer,” she said in an email. “I like to tell college students that being around the preschool is an uplifting brain-break to balance out the academic rigor in their life. There is certainly never a dull moment and always something to smile about at Mary Randall Preschool.”
The college volunteers help ensure the classes run smoothly.
“The extra pairs of hands and eyes definitely allow more elaborate activities and interactive experiences to be implemented with our young learners,” Rumler said in an email.
But it isn’t just the college students who benefit from volunteering at Mary Randall. The preschoolers themselves take great happiness in spending time with the college assistants, according to Rumler.
“The volunteers … work their way into the hearts of our preschoolers very quickly,” Rumler said in an email. “The children will get to know which days and times certain volunteers come and look forward to seeing them each time they visit.”
Junior Jackson Bargenquast began volunteering at Mary Randall last fall.
“I really enjoy being able to interact with the preschoolers and it doesn’t even really feel like volunteering,” he said in an email. “I feel that it definitely has a positive impact on my life. It has helped me to see the benefit that serving in the community can bring, and I think this is an important area of growth I have made in regards to learning outside the class, and I am glad that I will be able to take this knowledge into my life after college.”
Bargenquast said the children at Mary Randall and another preschool he volunteers at have impacted him. “The children at both preschools are amazing in their capacity to show enthusiasm about learning and their willingness to trust another person,” he said in an email.