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Lehigh Field Hockey’s Community Collaboration

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Through: Justin Lafleur, Lehigh Sports Communications

Rather than sit back in the midst of an atypical fall semester, the Lehigh hockey team made a difference in the community.

The current Mountain Hawks teamed up with alum, Dr. Steph Palmieri, and the program she is closely associated with Lehigh Valley Summerbridge.

As described on the website, the program is “ a free, non-profit enrichment program run by Moravian Academy designed to assist primarily low-income students from nine different high schools in the Lehigh Valley in their search for college . pupil.”

This dual-mission program is also dedicated to teacher training, employing aspiring teachers who are enrolled in university education programs, many of whom grew up in the Lehigh Valley and enrolled at Lehigh and Lehigh Valley colleges.

Palmieri actually started working with Summerbridge when she was working on her master’s degree at Lehigh.

“Much of our work takes place over the summer,” said Palmieri, who is currently the programme’s deputy director. “We have about seven weeks, so a week of really intense teacher orientation and then six weeks with the students.”

Summerbridge also offers year-round programming, including fun field trips to celebrate students’ hard work, along with college prep sessions.

“We had to go online this summer, which was very difficult,” said Palmieri. “So we looked for ways to really involve our children.”

Early in the fall, Lehigh heads hockey coach Caitlin Dallmeyer contacted Palmieri to ask if she had any ideas for community service options.

Palmieri, who received her bachelor’s degree from Lehigh in 2007 and from Lehigh in 2009, succeeded.

Palmieri Summerbridge
Palmieri with students from Summerbridge (pre-pandemic)

“I suggested a book club with Summerbridge kids,” she said. “We set up four-hour training sessions with the team through Zoom. We talked about what it means to be a teacher, how you interact with children, what adolescents need from us and how we can give that to them. that prevent students with a specific low income from learning (and accessing learning). “

This fall, the Lehigh hockey students took on the role of teacher.

“The players saw the difficulties of online education and working with a low-income population that cannot always be [in attendance], ” said Palmieri.

Five group leaders were selected and three groups read Divergent and two reading The hunger Games.

“The group leaders were Sam Nason and Maddie Kahn for group one, Sophie Leighton for group two, Anna Piecuch for group three, Sydney White for group four and Couple Havas for fifth grade, “Palmieri said.” Every Monday the group leaders, coaches and I met through Zoom and we questioned the letter. We watched some video clips from their sessions and talked about different aspects of leadership. “

Each group consisted of four to six student athletes and a handful of Summerbridge students, two or three of whom showed up consistently.

“The groups created a lesson plan and received feedback before implementing that plan,” Palmieri said. “Book club sessions each had a theme each week. We started by getting to know you and the reading activities then focused on characterization, setting, conflict, plot and theme.”

The student athletes were given a lot of freedom.

One question that came to mind, which was quite astonishing, was in one of the Divergent groups, ”Palmieri said. The book says something like a fear landscape, in which you have to act out your fears. What would the fears be in your landscape?

“It sparked this very fascinating conversation about some silly fears and some really deep, deep fears.”

Such conversations were a learning and growth experience for the student athletes as well as for the high school students.

“We learned to be quick thinkers as group instructors, and this meant we would leave our first lesson if we found that a particular idea or topic was worth exploring further,” said Piecuch. “Steph taught us this way to think critically as a teacher. She emphasized the importance of asking children, ‘why do you think that?’ or ‘tell us more’ after they make an interesting comment. “

Palmieri was impressed with the questions from the student athletes.

“We’ve done a lot of training to create good discussion questions,” she said. “How do you create meaningful discussion questions and how do you follow them up? When I watched the recordings, I saw so many LUFH (Lehigh field hockey) players come out of their shells, using those strategies, interacting with the kids and each other, putting themselves outside of it and telling crazy stories. “

The players found a way to effectively come into contact with the young people in a virtual setting.

Summerbridge students
Summerbridge students visiting Lehigh (pre-pandemic)

“It’s hard for Zoom,” Palmieri said. “You don’t get that natural flow going, but they did a really good job letting kids who didn’t want to speak out loud type (in the chat) and feel comfortable.”

Piecuch hopes Lehigh hockey has helped high school students get excited about learning.

“I hope that by talking to us, they realized that talking about books and ideas is really cool, and as we grow the mind, we become more versatile and flexible people,” she said. “I hope we have helped children feel energized in learning and that they always remain curious.”

Learning is exactly what LUFH did throughout the process. They knew they had an impact, but their true impact will be hard to quantify for at least a while.

“Part of our program is to introduce high school students to the opportunity to study,” Palmieri said. “Many of them become first-generation students. We take them on two field trips every summer. We talk a lot about the language of the university and that. is possible.

“The fact that they deal not only with college students, but also with highly intelligent, composed students, is a confirmation I think,” she continued. ‘The children see them can do this. The LUFH players were great role models, they volunteered, showed up every week, and were willing to say and share thoughts and ideas. “

White enjoyed serving as a role model.

“It was a truly rewarding opportunity,” she said. “I wouldn’t be where I am now if I was growing up it hadn’t had role models that push me to get better. That’s the great thing about LUFH; the coaches give us the idea of ​​being part of something bigger than ourselves and a person that others look up to. “

Over the days, months and years, these student athletes have certainly made the coaches proud, and this case was no different.

White called the experience ‘humiliation’.

Steph Palmieri Summerbridge
Palmieri with a Summerbridge student (pre-pandemic)

“These kids chose to be part of this book club, which is saying a lot in itself,” she said. “It made me want to work so much harder for them so that they would later continue with the same intellectual desire. This also gave me perspective in terms of the shift to virtual learning for teachers. It’s not easy in any way to construct a lesson plan that can be executed without actually being in class.

“I have a newfound appreciation for my teachers and the dedication they have shown to my success.”

Palmieri, himself an adjunct professor at Temple University, knows the power of teaching. She couldn’t be more proud of Lehigh hockey for the way it approached the book club with a growth mindset.

“We don’t put gold stars on just doing your job,” Palmieri said. “We are celebrating the truly impressive performance and I am very impressed with LUFH. They probably didn’t know how much work it was going to take, especially given the circumstances (in the midst of the pandemic), but they kept learning and growing throughout the time. the program.

“I am very proud of them.”

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