Dr. Diane Hall, Associate Professor of Psychology, was recognized by the Center for Human Development (CHD) for her steadfast support of the young men enrolled in its Community Adolescent Treatment Program during a community event titled “Mindful Mentorship: Youth and the Community Working Together as Partners", where she participated as a panelist.
Dr. Hall has been organizing a book club in partnership with Robert Jreaswec, Assistant Director at CHD in Springfield, MA, for the past nine years. In 2007, the first year of the book club, Dr. Hall’s forensic psychology students conducted a book drive and delivered 1,119 books for CHD’s library. The book club supports incarcerated male youth in the Community Adolescent Treatment Program, providing the youth with an opportunity to engage with college students.
Third-year Bay Path students enrolled in Dr. Hall’s psychology of criminal behavior course and the advanced seminar in forensic psychology course are required to complete a service learning component, and participating in this program with CHD is one of the options. Dr. Hall and Jreaswec mentor their respective participants in this mutually beneficial program in how to interact with each other, putting stigma and stereotyping aside. Dr. Hall takes the Bay Path students to CHD to participate in the book club.
“The young men have a lot of promise. It gives them confidence to see they can do an activity, succeed, and fit in among college students,” she said.
The book club was designed to offer a community-building experience for all of the participants, so the young men, Bay Path students, Jreaswec, and Dr. Hall each select a book of their own choosing, and explain to the group why they’ve chosen that particular book and what it’s about.
“Through that, you really learn a lot about each person,” Dr. Hall said. “A lot of the young men use it as a tool for coping with what they’re going through in life. And it’s interesting to see that many times, a youth and one of our students choose the same book. An important lesson that comes out of this program is that the college students and young men realize they are more similar than different. It helps to break down perceived barriers and reduce stigma.”
The book club and other collaborations with CHD are all about helping the young men see that college is an option, exposing them to interactions with college students, and getting them onto a college campus. “At the same time, the Bay Path students benefit by gaining an understanding of the multitude of issues these young men face and learn how to interact with them in a positive and empowering manner. Besides collaborating on the book club, the youth in the Community Adolescent Treatment Program program came to Bay Path and did a Skype session with the students and Erin Gruwell, a nationally recognized educator. They have attended classes on campus and talked with students, attended our Kaleidoscope events, and have worked together as volunteers for the annual CHD conference,” Dr. Hall said.