For several years, Knox maintained a branch of Eye to Eye, a national organization created at Brown University in 1998. Recently, Knox’s branch had to disaffiliate with the national organization, due to lack of funds. But at that point, the students involved had already formed relationships with the students, and they didn’t want to stop working with them.
Now the club calls themselves “Art Room,” because the activities they do with the kids are art related. The group’s mission is to help elementary and middle school students with learning disabilities, like ADD/ADHD. It is a mentor/mentee situation, in which college students go into schools to help the younger students.
The club is comprised of Mentor Coordinators Delaney Miller and Megan Molloy, and PR/Fundraising Coordinator Neil Banerji, all juniors. Their Faculty Coordinator is Stephanie Grimes. They work with students at both Churchill and Lombard Middle Schools, in Galesburg. They spend an hour once a week working directly with students, but this year they want to change that to twice a week.
Miller started volunteering with Art Room as a freshman, and has been working with the organization ever since. “I also have ADHD, so school has been kind of a struggle for me too. It’s nice to see the kids feeling motivated about school, and see them learning that there’s different ways that they’re smart, and their disability doesn’t define who they are,” said Miller. “[All of the projects] are art based. Last year we made this road map to success, so they had to draw a road and we had them make things to move them down the road, roadblocks and make ways to get past the roadblocks.”
All of the involved students have found working with Art Room to be very rewarding. “I love seeing the way the kids change as they go through middle school,” said Molloy, who has also been involved with Art Room (then Eye to Eye) since her first year at Knox.
The PR/Fundraising position is brand new this school year, and is Banerji’s first time working with Art Room. Though he has yet to go into the schools and work with students, he hopes to help recruit more students, and have more fundraising initiatives. “Our requirements for volunteering for Art Room have expanded [since disaffiliation from Eye to Eye nationally] to include everyone, not just people with disabilities, so I’d like to take advantage of that,” said Banerji. He also hopes to bring a guest speaker to campus this year.
Since Art Room is no longer working under the restrictions of a national organization, they will have much more freedom to do projects that the kids want to do, not mandated ones, and have a much larger volunteer pool, since mentors no longer have to have a learning disability themselves. With so much room to grow, all of the members feel that there is so much potential.