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A Method to the ‘Madness’: SUNY Potsdam Undergraduates Mentor Malone Middle School Students Through New Program

February 13, 2020

Mentoring Partnership Connects Malone Middle School Students to Higher Learning Opportunities at SUNY Potsdam, Thanks to GEAR UP Grant

There is an old saying that the best way to learn is to teach. This month, students at SUNY Potsdam are following this age-old creed, as they help to empower Malone Middle School students through a series they’re calling Mentoring Madness.

Starting today, the multi-day event will bring 35 SUNY Potsdam students to Malone over the coming weeks to conduct mentoring sessions meant to prepare sixth to eighth grade students for success.

The program is a partnership between SUNY Potsdam, the College For Every Student (CFES) Brilliant Pathways program and Malone Middle School, funded by a U.S. Department of Education Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant.

“We constantly strive to encourage students to think about their future, by setting goals that we can assist them in achieving,” said Malone Middle Principal Dustin Relation. “The partnership with Potsdam further connects our students, assists with goal setting, and enhances their exposure to the many career options available after graduation.” 

Mentoring Madness kicked off today at Malone Middle School. SUNY Potsdam students will also travel to the district on Feb. 27 and March 3 for additional mentoring sessions

“Motivated, successful individuals rely on more than academic knowledge to succeed. They rely on a host of attributes we call the essential skills — goal setting, teamwork, leadership, agility and perseverance,” said Toby White, director of experiential education at the SUNY Potsdam Lougheed Center for Applied Learning. “These are the focus of the mentoring activities in our program.”

In April, 90 Malone Middle School students participating in GEAR UP will travel to SUNY Potsdam, where they will participate in hands-on applied learning activities designed to expose them to STEM fields and civic engagement. The middle schoolers will take part in geology-related activities facilitated by SUNY Potsdam students, and learn about criminal justice studies at the College’s Law Enforcement Training Institute.

During the STEM sessions, GEAR UP participants will learn about the history of the earth, earth materials and their uses, and how geologists employ the scientific method, said Dr. Page Quinton, an assistant professor of geology.

“We will explore these topics by making use of our new Geoscience Garden, the Timerman Hall Museum, and our extensive rock, mineral and fossil collections,” Quinton said. “This means that students will get to actively engage with the specimens and try their hands using some of the tools of the geology trade.”

GEAR UP is a competitive federal program that provides multi-year grants to education and community partnerships and states, to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. CFES Brilliant Pathways received its first GEAR UP grant in October 2018. The seven-year, $11.6 million U.S. Department of Education grant is used to provide direct services to more than 2,000 students and their families each year, through partnerships with seven school districts in the Adirondack region.

A Lougheed Applied Learning Grant provided the funding to transport SUNY Potsdam students to travel to Malone, and the College is supporting the middle schoolers’ campus visit with funds from the Institute for Ethical Behavior endowment.

“This collaboration is an excellent example of applied learning at its best,” White said. “College For Every Student places a strong emphasis on mentoring relationships. If middle school students have the opportunity to talk with SUNY Potsdam students and work on the essential skills, they can see for themselves what it would be like to be a college student, and possibly one day go to college and pursue their individual goals.”

About SUNY Potsdam:
Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit

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