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Partners in Programming

Psychology student Kyle Johnson, who graduated this May, talks to a boy at the Mont Pleasant location of the Boys & Girls Club of Schenectady.

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 13, 2018) – What began as a way for a psychology professor’s students to conduct child-development research in a real-world setting has turned into an award-winning partnership, with both UAlbany students and children in Schenectady reaping the benefits.

Since 2009, Associate Professor Elana Gordis’ graduate and undergraduate students have been collaborating with the Mont Pleasant site of the Boys & Girls Club of Schenectady. In May, the department was presented with the 2018 “Vincent C. Mastrofrancisco Partners in Programming Award” at the not-for-profit organization’s annual meeting.

The partnership initially began primarily for research purposes, with Gordis and her students seeking to learn more about the impact that violence has on a child’s behavior and mindfulness. However, it wasn’t long before the collaboration became much more. Now, students visit the club regularly and chip in wherever help is needed, whether by supervising programs, mentoring, discussing the college experience, helping with homework or simply playing games.

“Our partnership with Dr. Gordis and her psychology students has been wonderful for the Boys & Girls Club, as the students working at the Mont Pleasant Clubhouse have made a significant contribution to our members and staff,” said Louise DiFabbio, director of operations at the Club.

Though the partnership is meaningful because of the benefit it provides to the members of the club, the benefits are twofold: In addition to helping the community, the students are gaining valuable knowledge about child development in a real-world, practical environment, Gordis said.

“The partnership with the Club has allowed my students to learn about important issues in children's development and has also allowed us to study important issues through our research,” she said. “We look forward to more years of this mutually beneficial collaboration.”

Natasha Lindor, a UAlbany alum and former student of Gordis, confirms that the lessons learned by working with the Boys & Girls Club transfer over into a career.

“I've learned so much from working with the Mont Pleasant Boys and Girls club including behavioral management and child emotional regulation techniques and strategies,” she said. “These skills have helped me tremendously since I've graduated and am now working as a youth care counselor at a children's shelter.”

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