Teen Mentors Program earns A&S Diversity Award

Dr. Sherona Garrett-Ruffin, psychology, and a number of BGSU students spend many Saturday mornings each semester at the Juvenile Residential Center (JRC) of Northwest Ohio. Garrett-Ruffin has developed a service-learning project for first-year students that takes them into the facility to serve as peer mentors for male youth offenders between 12 and 18 years of age.

Her program, called Teen Mentors, has had a successful track record for the past four years, providing valuable experiences for both the first-year students enrolled in BGSU’s Chapman Learning Community and the center’s residents. For her efforts at leading a student-based initiative related to diversity, Garrett-Ruffin earned the BGSU College of Arts and Sciences Diversity Award. Dr. Margaret Yacobucci, chair of the Arts and Sciences Diversity Committee, presented the award to her at the committee’s award ceremony May 4.

First-year students from any major participate in Garret-Ruffin’s project. Usually, five to seven students go with her to the facility where they offer “therapy-inspired activities” in a group setting to anywhere from three to about 13 residents. The lessons learned are on both sides — students see diversity training firsthand within the facility and the residents witness positive social behaviors and leadership modeling by the University students.

As nominator Carolyn Tompsett, psychology, explained, “Many of the JRC residents are members of marginalized groups in terms of race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status and are stigmatized by their involvement in the justice system. Dr. Garrett-Ruffin uses a cultural competency framework to develop culturally sensitive programming to support the therapeutic goals of the clients and to provide diversity training to BGSU students.”

According to Bridget Ansberg, director of the center, “The Teen Mentors program has had such an impact on the residents in the four years Sherona has run it that it has become an integral part of the residents’ treatment plan.”

At the end of each JRC session, Garrett-Ruffin thanks the students for participating, because she knows it is not easy academically or emotionally. Teen Mentors provides a high-impact educational influence on BGSU students and fosters change in the local community.

Other diversity-related projects and presentations that were discussed during the event included: “Native American Code Talkers,” a presentation by Dr. Spintz Harrison, ethnic studies; “Designing for Difference,” by Dr. Jolie Sheffer, English and American culture studies; “Story-Making Practices of Women from Guyana” and “Being Seen and Heard,” by doctoral candidate Pauline Baird, rhetoric and writing; BG4Unity: A Social Media Project, Not in Our Town, and Community Research Project on Diversity and Inclusion, all led by Dr. Lisa Hanasono, communication; Test Knowledge of Asian American History by Dr. Sri Menon, ethnic studies; Electric Guitar Conference by Dr. Matthew Donahue, popular culture; Latin America and Latino Studies Student Research by Drs. Valeria Grinberg Pla and Pedro Porbén, both romance and classical studies; Generation Justice Conference and Toss the Tiara by Dr. Sarah Smith Rainey, School of Cultural and Critical Studies; American Sociological Association amicus  brief on same-sex families by Dr. Wendy Manning, sociology; Sociology Capstone Scholars Diversity Research by Dr. Kei Namaguchi, sociology; The Lynch Quilt Project and Visiting Artist LaShawnda Crowe Storm by Alison Terry-Fritsch, School of Art.