Indiana State University Newsroom

BEST program presents scholars with opportunity to serve others

December 10, 2015

Paychecks are necessary and summers off are nice, but manning a classroom takes understanding of subject matter, knowing how to teach so that students can learn, and a heart for all students.

While students in the Bayh College of Education Scholars to Teachers program already get the core content in class, the program's director Pamela Gresham is focused on making sure the scholars are ready to transform lives and communities when they become educators through involvement in service on and off campus.

"It's about reaching out to the students, families and communities where we teach and investing in them," Gresham said. "I want the BEST scholars to graduate from college and invest in their families and be prepared to lead high quality lives in and out of the classroom, so that the young people in their classrooms can learn from them how to transform their lives for the better, which in turn transforms their families and their communities. Excellence in service should begin in our hearts, with our own children and/or families, and spread out into our spheres of influence."

The students have begun participating in volunteer activities, like the Terre Haute Police Department Hot Pursuit 5K in October, represented the group at on-campus events, including Homecoming, the Bayh College's 150th event, Sycamore Educator Day, and an emeriti luncheon, and have been active in several other on and off campus events. They also had the opportunity to meet with Indiana State President Dan Bradley and will visit with the university's Provost Mike Licari. On Dec. 6, BEST scholars will be volunteering at a 5K that raises money for Clothe-A-Child.

Six upperclassmen in the program have served as mentors for several freshmen scholars this fall. Gresham said in the spring BEST scholars will be matched up with faculty, staff and community mentors who will serve as resources knowledge and leadership for the students.

"We're going into a field where we want to help people, so doing service work reinforces that," said Betsy Hobbs, a freshman elementary education major from Lafayette. "I ran in the 5K the BEST Scholars worked and helped out before and after the race, and I got to meet people who worked on the Lifeline helicopter who talked about having a passion for flying and helping people. Working in education is like that for me because it allows me to combine my passion for teaching and helping others."

The students also designed a night of food and socializing at the Bayh College on Nov. 19, which they opened up to education majors. The hope is to host a similar student event later this school year, as well as more college, campus and community events. The creating, implementing, and reflecting on these student led events is an important component of the BEST scholars' leadership training.

"These types of events help with recruitment and retention, but most importantly they promote service, leadership, and positive relationships, something we should learn to promote in our lives and in our classrooms each day," Gresham said. "I believe that everyone has something good to offer. When we recognize and act on the premise that all people are important, regardless of their positions or circumstances in life, then we approach our interactions more humbly and seeking to understand and offer service when/where needed and in capacities we are called to."

Each of the scholars has a binder to record their mentorship activities, leadership trainings, research and presentations and community engagement events they participate in. At the beginning of the binders, students were asked to write at self-reflection that details where they want to be in four years.

"It's a way to easily translate their accomplishments into a resume, but it's really about something bigger because these students were selected for this program because people saw something special in them," Gresham said.

"This is designed to be a tangible way for them to see their progress and to remind them that they are doing and living out service and being the best they can be. We have focused on seeking excellence and not perfection, and making it a ‘Yes!' This means that we walk humbly with the gifts and talented we have been afforded to serve others and to do things consciously and reflectively that are in the best interest of others, not just ourselves. "

One of the first volunteer activities Andrea Perry, a freshman elementary education major from Mitchell, participated in after coming to Indiana State was a pet adoption fair, a cause that is important to her as an animal lover.

"I'm from a small town where there aren't a lot of opportunities to do service for the community, but I want to be a teacher and I think it will be important for me to sure the children in my classroom that they can get involved and make change," Perry said. "I want my students to always know that being a positive influence on the world isn't something just for adults to do. Everybody can make change no matter their age."

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or