Some individuals have a knack for going above and beyond what is expected of them. They are the ones that leave a lasting impact on their community. Dr. Bertha Roberts fits that bill to a tee. Because of that, she received a special award from Girls Inc. She was recognized as the Girls Inc. Southeast Region Volunteer-Programs recipient. She was nominated for this award, which covers Girls Inc. agencies in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee, by Jaime Hale, executive director, and Sylvia McCall, program director, for Girls Inc. Dothan. They accepted the award during the Southeast Region’s conference in Huntsville Nov. 9.
Hale says it was a no-brainer to nominate Dr. Roberts, who teaches elementary education at Troy University Dothan Campus, for the work she has done over the past six years to help inspire the agency’s participants to excel in the classroom and as individuals.
“It’s so valuable to have somebody that wants to help girls expand their knowledge in science and math,” Hale said as she began to describe the relationship Dr. Roberts has built with Girls Inc. “She does it in a unique way with college students. It’s a win-win situation for them and for our girls.”
Six years ago, Dr. Roberts was seeking a new way to engage her education students in real-life situations to gain much-needed experience. That is when she contacted Hale about the possibility of using the agency’s summer program as a teaching opportunity for her own students.
“In the school year, we do field experience in the schools,” Dr. Roberts said. “In the summertime, I was looking for a different way for my students to complete their field experience before their internships. I was looking for a place, and that is when I contacted Jaime.”
In the early years of the collaboration, Roberts was able to secure grant funding from NASA to defray the expenses of the undertaking. That funding is no longer available, but that did not deter Roberts. She has continued the program on pretty much a shoestring budget. That has led to some creative thinking on the part of Roberts’ students.
For the youngsters taking part in the program, the effort opened new doors of study in music, reading, science, social studies, math and pretty much everything in between.
The six-week program entails classroom work for the college students as well as time spent conducting class with the young girls who attend the summer program. It is all done under Dr. Roberts’ watchful eye.
“I come with the students,” Roberts said. “My students are learning to be teachers. This program will help them be better teachers. At the same time, it will help these girls be better students.”
The learning experience for the college students begins in the classroom. They take those lessons and apply them to the classes they teach.
“They teach the lessons that they have created each week,” Roberts said. “They spend half of their time in class (on site at Girls Inc.) and the other half working with the kids. They learn in a hands-on way to engage the students. Through this program, they learn all aspects of teaching. They gain as much, if not more, as the girls do. In this program, we work from theory to practice.”
Typically, Roberts will bring anywhere from 15 to 25 students to the summer program at Girls Inc. They usually have at least 100 summer participants, which translates to the college students working in pairs, if not more, in each class.
Roberts is quick to point out the importance of the collaborative effort.
“The success of the program is due to Jaime and Sylvia,” Roberts said. They give us an open door to come. They have been an inspiration to me, because they are so committed to their girls.
“The success also goes to my students. They are given great experience, and they give back to the students who need help.”
Hale says the interaction between her agency’s participants and Roberts and her college students has made a positive impact.
“Through this program, Dr. Roberts has reached at least 600 girls,” Hale said. “Their interest in math and science has increased because of this summer program. Overall, she has done a wonderful job of keeping it interesting with the variety of topics that she picks to use each summer. We feel like she does everything she does for the kids.”
The calendar may read November, but Roberts already has next summer in mind.
“We’re already planning for this summer’s program,” Roberts said as she briefly addressed the Girls Inc. after-school program participants as she accepted the award. “My students look forward to it each summer.”