Faculty Spotlight: Sandra Reid leads positive change for students in Burlington

Elon University has had a long partnership with the Positive Attitude Youth Center, where Elon students can volunteer and help to enhance the education of elementary school students within the Alamance community. All of this started with Sandra Reid.

Since 2008, Elon University has had a partnership with the Positive Attitude Youth Center (PAYC) in Burlington, N.C., thanks to Elon faculty member Sandra Reid.

This partnership provides young students with an opportunity to improve their education and learn more about healthy lifestyles, while simultaneously providing Elon students, specifically those in human service studies, with first-hand experience in this field.

Reid is currently a lecturer in human service studies. She teaches seven classes a year and serves on various committees for the university. Teaching, however, is her number one priority.

Lecturer in Human Service Studies Sandra Reid

Among the courses that Reid teaches is an intro to human service studies course that has a service-learning component. This is essentially what started the long and consistent partnership Elon now has with the PAYC.

When she first started teaching the course, Reid would have her students choose different places to do their volunteer hours and off-campus service-learning requirement. However, she soon decided that instead she wanted them to focus on work centered around a single project.

“I thought it would be more helpful for the community partner and more helpful for our students, to focus on one particular thing,” Reid said. “I have an affinity for the Positive Attitude Youth Center. I’ve known that director for 30 plus years. When I worked in juvenile justice, he was working with at-risk kids, so I really honor the work that they do at that center and I thought that my students would be able to contribute to that work.”

With this course, Elon students have 30 volunteer hours to complete individually. Over the years, Elon students have volunteered at the PAYC in a variety of ways, interacting with students anywhere from pre-k to middle school. Some Elon students tutor and help specifically in improving reading skills while others assist with homework assignments. Some even do physical play and teach the PAYC students dance and theater games. Elon students can visit the PAYC either during the day and assist in the classrooms or they can go volunteer with the center’s afternoon program during after-school hours.

This semester, Reid started bringing her class to the PAYC altogether as a group, twice a month.

“It just gives me an opportunity to watch my students interact with the students at PAYC,” Reid said. “It gives me an opportunity to talk to that partner while I’m there to see if we’re meeting those needs or if there are other things we could possibly be doing. It gives me time to connect.”

For Reid, the number one goal for this program is to improve the reading skills of the elementary students. She also hopes that the PAYC students are given the opportunity to interact with college students and feel comfortable in having important conversations about what college is like. This way, the PAYC students will be given the ability to look towards something in the future and become driven to set goals for themselves.

Similarly, Reid hopes that her Elon students are able to have an experience in a community outside of Elon, where there are actually a lot of protective factors in place. She wants her Elon students to ultimately see that even though this community might not have the largest amount of resources, there are people able to pull the resources that they do have together and still succeed.

“Just the other day when we were over there, one of my students had taught the girls a particular dance, getting them ready for a pep rally. It’s those kinds of moments,” Reid said. “You know there are a lot of different moments. And I’ve watched that partnership grow. I’ve watched that center grow to have this really good school that parents really depend on. The parents put so much trust into that organization and that is very special and if we can as Elon continue to support that organization, then that makes our partnership stronger. So it’s those things and just knowing that the kids are growing in safe environments and it’s allowing them to flourish.”

Reid is looking forward to seeing how she and her students can do more for the PAYC. Together, they want to help the PAYC grow programs that are beneficial to their students.

“If PAYC was not in the community I really I just don’t even know what would happen to these kids particularly after school,” Reid said.

Reid appreciates all that the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement has done in continuing to grow this partnership. Having the networking, initiative grants and constant support has made such a difference in what this partnership is capable of.

“One word? Impactful… in both ways,” Reid said. “It’s been impactful for I think all involved.”