Lehigh Field Hockey’s Community Collaboration
Creator: Justin Lafleur, Lehigh Sports Communications
Instead of kicking back on an atypical fall semester, the Lehigh field hockey team made a difference in the community.
Today’s Mountain Hawks have teamed up with alum Dr. Steph Palmieri and the program she is heavily involved in – Lehigh Valley Summerbridge.
As described on its website, the program is a “free, non-profit, enrichment program run by the Moravian Academy aimed primarily at helping low-income students from nine different Lehigh Valley middle schools find college students.”
This dual mission program is also dedicated to teacher training and employs aspiring teachers who participate in higher education programs, many of which grew up in the Lehigh Valley and are enrolled in Lehigh and colleges throughout the Lehigh Valley.
Palmieri actually started working with Summerbridge when she was working at Lehigh on her Masters degree.
“Much of our work takes place in the summer,” said Palmieri, who is currently the program’s deputy director. “We have about seven weeks, one week of really intensive teacher orientation, then six weeks with the students.”
Summerbridge also runs school year programs that include fun field trips to celebrate student hard work as well as college preparatory sessions.
“We had to go online this summer, which was very difficult,” said Palmieri. “So we looked for ways to really get our children involved.”
Early in the fall, Lehigh’s chief field hockey coach Caitlin Dallmeyer reached out to Palmieri to ask if she had any ideas for charitable activities.
Palmieri, who graduated from Lehigh in 2007 and graduated from Lehigh in 2009, got through.
Palmieri with Summerbridge students (prepandemic)
“I suggested a book club with Summerbridge kids,” she said. “We set up four-hour training sessions with the team through Zoom. We talked about what it means to be a teacher, how to interact with children, what teenagers need from us and how we can give them a lot about the barriers that are specific Prevent low-income students from learning (and from having access to learning). “
That fall, the Lehigh field hockey athletes took on the role of teacher.
“The players saw the difficulties of online education and working with a low-income population that may not always be [in attendance]”said Palmieri.
Five group leaders were selected, three of whom read Divergent and two read The Hunger Games.
“The group leaders were Sam Nason and Maddie Kahn for the first group, Sophie Leighton for the second group, Anna Piecuch for the third group, Sydney White for the fourth group and Lenke Havas for the fifth group,” said Palmieri. “Every Monday the group leaders, trainers and I met through Zoom and we talked. We watched some of the video clips from their sessions and talked about different aspects of leadership.”
Each group consisted of four to six athletes and a handful of Summerbridge students, two or three of whom showed up regularly.
“The groups created a lesson plan and received feedback before implementing that plan,” said Palmieri. “Had a topic each week during the book club meetings. We started getting to know you and doing pre-reading activities before going into characterization, attitude, conflict, plot, and topic.”
The athletes were given a lot of freedom.
“One question that came up and was pretty amazing was in one of the divergent groups,” said Palmieri. “There’s this thing called the fear landscape in the book where you have to act out your fears. What would the fears be in your landscape?
“It led to this very fascinating conversation about some stupid fears and some really deep, deep fears.”
Such conversations were as much learning and growing experience for the athletes as they were for the middle school students.
“We learned to think quickly as group teachers, and that meant that we’d say goodbye to our first lesson if we found that a certain idea or topic was worth exploring,” said Piecuch . “Steph taught us how to think critically as a teacher in this way. She emphasized the importance of asking children, ‘Why are you thinking that?’ or ‘tell us more’ after you’ve made an interesting comment. “
Palmieri was impressed by the questions from the athletes.
“We did a lot of training to create good discussion questions,” she said. “How do you create meaningful discussion questions and how do you follow them up? As I looked at the footage, I saw so many LUFH (Lehigh Field Hockey) players coming out of their bowls with these strategies and interacting with the kids and each other, each other stand up and tell silly stories. “
The players found a way to effectively connect with the youth in a virtual environment.
Summerbridge students visit Lehigh (prepandemic)
“It’s hard for Zoom,” said Palmieri. “You can’t get that natural flow going, but they did a really good job of making kids who didn’t want to speak out loud can type (in chat) and feel comfortable.”
Piecuch hopes Lehigh Field Hockey helped middle school students get excited about learning.
“I hope that by speaking with us, they realized that chatting about books and ideas is really cool, and that growing minds makes us rounder and more adaptable people,” she said. “I hope we’ve helped kids feel motivated as they study and never stop being curious.”
Learning is exactly what LUFH did throughout the process. They knew they had an influence, but their real influence will be difficult to quantify … at least for some time.
“Part of our program is teaching middle school students the possibility of college,” said Palmieri. “Many of them will be first-generation college students. We take them on two college trips every summer. We talk a lot about the college language and that it is possible.
“I believe it is positive when you interact not only with college students but also with very intelligent, composed college students,” she continued. “The children see that they can do it. The LUFH players were great role models, stood there, showed up every week and were ready to share and share thoughts and ideas.”
White enjoyed serving as a role model.
“It was a really rewarding opportunity,” she said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t had role models who pushed me to do better. That’s the big part of LUFH; the coaches give us the idea of being part of something bigger than that ourselves and. ” become a person that others look up to. “
Over the days, months, and years these student athletes have certainly made the coaches proud, and this case was no different.
White called the experience “humiliating”.
Palmieri with a Summerbridge student (prepandemic)
“These kids chose to be part of this book club that says a lot to itself,” she said. “It made me work so much harder for them so that they could move on later with the same intellectual desire. This also gave me a perspective on the shift to virtual learning for teachers. It’s by no means easy to construct a lesson plan that can be done without actually being in the classroom.
“I have a new appreciation for my teachers and the dedication they put into my success.”
Palmieri is an Associate Professor at Temple University herself and knows the power of teaching. She couldn’t be more proud of Lehigh’s field hockey because it approached the book club with a growth philosophy.
“We don’t put gold stars on it just to do your job,” said Palmieri. “We’re celebrating the really impressive achievements and I’ve been very impressed with LUFH. They probably didn’t realize how much work it would be, especially given the circumstances (amid the pandemic), but they continued to learn and have grown throughout the program.
“I’m very proud of her.”