PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — On a Wednesday afternoon in April at William D’Abate Elementary School in Providence’s diverse Olneyville neighborhood, Brown President Christina Paxson looked on as more than a dozen student and staff volunteers from the University taught children chess, bingo, charades and arts and crafts.
Brown Elementary Afterschool Mentoring, or BEAM, is one of the largest student groups at Brown’s Swearer Center — and one of its longest running. Brown’s partnership with D’Abate began in 2000, and since then, it’s grown to involve about 150 Brown student volunteers and a handful of staff coordinators.
Josephine Issenman, a senior who’s volunteered with BEAM since her first year on campus, said Brown students teach after-school classes on subjects that vary from African culture to engineering to the history of political activism. Students are in residence at D’Abate every weekday afternoon during the school year and for five weeks over the summer, enriching D’Abate students’ scholastic experiences and allowing their parents to stay at work longer.
Over the years, BEAM has positively affected the school’s test scores, student attendance records and teacher retention, D’Abate Principal Brent Kermen told Paxson during the visit. But BEAM staffers were quick to point out that D’Abate isn’t the only party benefiting from the partnership.
“So many Brown students who volunteer here say, ‘I succeed in school, so why can’t I get the second graders to sit on the rug?’ They’re humbled by their experience here,” Betsy Shimberg, the Swearer Center’s director of student development, said.
Perhaps that’s why, when one D’Abate teacher took a break from her after-school grading work to thank Paxson for making the BEAM program possible, Paxson smiled and said, “No, thank you.”
Photographer Nick Dentamaro captured highlights from the visit.