As the academic year winds down, so do the many tutoring and mentoring relationships that Beloit College students share with Beloit area children and youth.
For Beloiters like Austin Padjen ’17, who mentors a young man named James at Hackett Elementary through the Baseball Team’s BUC Buddies Program, these mentoring relationships are really important. So important, in fact, that the end of the academic year signals something more complicated than good old fashioned relief for the summer break.
Why did you get involved in the Buc Buddies program, initially?
Coach DeGeorge mentioned the program to me when I first arrived to Beloit’s campus, and I signed up right away. I could not tell you the reasons why I felt so compelled to volunteer for this program, but I do know that I felt it was my responsibility as an athlete at Beloit College to have a strong presence in the community. I just wanted to help out anyway I could and be a part of this community no matter what the opportunity was.
What keeps you such a committed mentor?
James is my best friend. He is not a kid who’s life I am trying to change, or who I am trying to install values upon. We are just best friends, and I never want to let him down. He looks up to me, and he may not know it, but I admire him probably more than he admires me. We spend our time just hanging out like two friends. We play games, we tell stories, we talk about the future, we tell secrets, and we just laugh. I never think of it as volunteer work.
How does participating in this program help frame your individual growth as an athlete? How does it help frame the team’s growth?
By getting the team more involved we are having a positive impact on so many students at Hackett Elementary. As a team we take a significant amount of pride in building relationships with these kids, and it has all given us new friendships. Individually I feel like I am doing my part as a Beloit College athlete by having a strong impact on the community.
Why do you think Coach DeGeorge encourages the baseball team members to participate?
It gives us some perspective. There is more to life than winning and losing a baseball game. For some of these kids life is a struggle, some kids may not be sleeping in their home, or may not have enough food. Their parents may be working more than one job and not have time to be with them. It puts everything into perspective that we are lucky to be here at Beloit College and to have the opportunity to play college baseball. It also teaches us that what we do on the baseball field does not compare to what we do as people off the field. It is far more important to be a good person and help others than it is to win a baseball game.
How has building a relationship with James affected you? How do you think it has affected him?
It has changed my life, and made me a better person. I used to let everything in the world bug me, and had a hard time dealing with the tremendous stress of adjusting to being a student at Beloit College. After being with James I became more positive. He is a kid that is always smiling, and always laughing no matter what is going on around him, and it just made me envy how he is as a kid. He is always telling me not to worry, and to see him remaining positive makes me realize how lucky I am to have a friend like him. I think I have made a great impact on him, but I honestly do not know. He thinks my jokes are bad and that I am very goofy, but every time I show up to Hackett he runs down the hall and jumps into my arms. We are just always happy to see each other.
LAPC thanks Hackett Principal Marcia Schwengels, who recently shared Austin and James’s story while lifting up Coach DeGeorge’s baseball team as an exceptional community partner at her school. “We are blessed to have the partnership with the baseball team referred to as ‘Buc Buddies’ here at Hackett,” she later wrote. She cited Austin’s commitment to James as an exceptional example of how relationships transform our lives.