Brandywine students support learning initiatives at elementary school

Penn State Brandywine students at the Alexander K. McClure Elementary School in North Philadelphia.

As part of their Youth Development and Social Justice Capstone course, eight Penn State Brandywine students worked with children and teachers at the Alexander K. McClure Elementary School in North Philadelphia throughout the spring semester. 

Credit: Kristen Goessling

MEDIA, Pa. — Putting their classroom knowledge into practice, eight Penn State Brandywine students had a positive impact working with children and teachers at the Alexander K. McClure Elementary School in North Philadelphia throughout the spring semester.

They were at McClure, which is part of the School District of Philadelphia, each Tuesday afternoon. Four of them worked with kindergarten students, three worked with first- and second-grade students to support social-emotional development, and one worked with the digital learning specialist. At the end of the school day, they assisted with after-school enrichment programs for fourth- and fifth-graders.

The Brandywine students were enrolled in the Youth Development and Social Justice Capstone (HDFS 400) led by Kristen Goessling, assistant professor of human development and family studies. The capstone course is required for Brandywine’s new 19-credit minor in youth development and social justice and is optional for the program’s 12-credit certificate.

Keyshaun Patterson, who graduated May 4 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, found the opportunity rewarding.

“Overall, this was a great experience,” he said. “We worked hard to make a great impact on the youth. We worked to build positive relationships and encourage learning and developmental skills. It was a great mentoring experience.”

During the first part of the afternoon, Patterson assisted in teaching a kindergarten class, particularly with math. Then he worked with City Year, a nonprofit organization, with the after-school enrichment program that included STEM education and free time.

“Working with 5- and 6-year-olds can be a handful,” he said. “You can read all you want about how to properly work with and teach these young students, but everything changes once you get in the room.”

Patterson said he was proud of the progress he saw in the students he mentored and he noted their improvement in confidence, work ethic and academic achievements.

Olive Kuhn worked with the Brandywine students as the McClure partnership coordinator through AmeriCorps Vista.

“We were really blessed that all of the Brandywine students came in with experience working with kids,” Kuhn said. “They already had a strong foundation. Here they got to see how those skills can be used. They got to fill in gaps at a place that is already doing so much.”

Kuhn noted the students were especially helpful with the social and emotional learning group and the school talent show.

“We kept reinforcing that we are all here to learn,” Kuhn said. “The Brandywine students were here to learn with our students. For our kids, seeing students who to them are big people still learning reinforced our value of lifelong learning. It’s really powerful to have someone taller than you and who you see as cool here because they are still learning.”

“I really saw growth in the Brandywine students and in their confidence,” Kuhn added.

This was Penn State Brandywine’s first semester working with McClure and its students, and Goessling was pleased with the results.

“I’m extremely proud of our students and the way they conducted themselves professionally,” Goessling said. “They developed positive relationships and were role models. They’ve all had both frustrations and ‘a-ha’ moments. And they achieved most of the goals they set at the beginning of the semester.”

Additional information about the youth development and social justice minor is available at