While it can be said that Stony Brook University is a community in itself — and quite a large one at that — it is not siloed from the rest of Long Island. In fact, there are many ways that Stony Brook looks to give back to the larger Long Island community, from food banks to blood drives and everything in between. One of these ways is working with high school students, particularly those that may not believe a college education could be in their future.
“There is no reason why [these students] cannot be Stony Brook students,” explained Michelle Singletary, director of Residential Education in the Department of Campus Residences. “We have to let them know that there’s more to life after high school. Some of these students don’t think there is. They think that after graduation, they’ll just go find a job or do their one thing. But we have to show them that you can still do that and be a student.”
Cue the creation of a mentorship program with Floyd Academy Alternative High School, a division of William Floyd High School located in Mastic Beach, NY. Singletary said the program, dubbed “Floyd Academy Friends,” started with an email, asking for volunteers to help mentor some of the high school kids from Floyd Academy. With more than 20 responses, the program went into an informal pilot stage and kicked off in Spring 2023.
“We told our volunteers that we were not sure what the program would look like, but we were so positive about this and what it would do for the community, but it would also be a great opportunity for our staff,” she said.
The program consists of visits with mentors and mentees both at Stony Brook and at Floyd Academy. The group isn’t paired up on a one-on-one basis; they meet in a group setting in case of absences or new students, Singletary explained, noting that they want to do whatever they can to reach the most students.
“We try to go different days so we can touch base with different students on those days. Sometimes there’s a lot of the same students and then sometimes there are different students who we meet with,” she said.
While the first mentored class will be graduating at the end of August 2023, Singletary said that she has already seen glimpses of success from the students that have participated. In one particular instance, a student was so taken with the campus during a visit that she turned to the group and said that this was going to be her next path forward. “To see her eyes light up — that was such a positive feeling for us,” she said.
And, there are plans to ramp up this program going into the fall. Stony Brook and Floyd Academy will add a third partner into the mix — Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America — which is currently being presented to the Board of Education for approval. This will bring added value to the program, said Singletary, as the foundation comes with a set program that will bring structure to what is already in place. Additionally, it will come with funding that will allow for more experiences.
Singletary is looking to add more volunteers to the roster, which can be through her department — however, any member of the Stony Brook community should feel free to participate if they are called to do so. The goal is to meet with the Floyd Academy students at least once per month, either there or at the university, so that the contact and communication isn’t lost.
“Here at Stony Brook, we want to bridge out to the Long Island community,” Singletary said. “Whether it be the Hospital side or the University side, we want to make people feel that we are a part of their community. This is the ethos of who we are.”
— Emily Cappiello