It's 3:30 in the afternoon and Margaret Morrison Lecture Hall is buzzing with activity. Elementary school students from Pittsburgh's Hill District are working one-on-one with student mentors from Carnegie Mellon — getting help with their homework, learning math from flash cards and taking turns in a spelling bee.
It's all part of Leaders in Learning, a mentoring program led by Carnegie Mellon alumna Christa Romanosky that addresses the needs of third, fourth and fifth graders at Miller African-Centered Academy who don't qualify for gifted or at-risk programs.
"To some of our students, college seems like an impossibility," said Romanosky. "They see that there is little money for college and they see that long road ahead of them. In everything we do with our students, we try to convey the message that they can touch their dreams and that there are so many possibilities to succeed that it is impossible to fail."
The kids also attend workshops that expose them to new experiences. Workshops range from cooking and jazz dance to a "green roof" tour and lessons on global trade. Occasionally, local leaders in history or art will visit, inspiring the kids with his or her story.
For Carnegie Mellon students looking to make extra cash, Leaders in Learning is also an opportunity to get paid for meaningful work. Romanosky says the program has a 65 percent return rate for mentors.
"The mentors benefit by developing their leadership skills and building their confidence," Romanosky said. "And I think they like knowing that they are having an impact on the kids' futures by helping to give them a strong foundation of knowledge to build upon."