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Mary Randall Preschool brings in college vol­un­teers, a long­standing tra­dition since the preschool’s founding in 1929. Mary Rumler | Courtesy

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.