Christine Seeley, a junior majoring in studio art, is president of Lawrence University’s CADY — Confidence and Determination for Youth — organization. Originally conceived five years ago as what she calls “a sorority-type thing,” the organization aims to reach out to young students in the Appleton community and get them interested in a liberal arts education. CADY holds an activities fair each term, in which kids explore subject matter and do activities that one would normally not find in the typical public school curriculum.
AK: Can you give me a brief overview of these events you host?
CS: The way we try to reach out to kids is by having events — one per term. I think this is the fifth year we’ve been having these events. We’ve always had Math and Science Day and Creative Arts Day, and the third day is more up in the air. This year we’ve tried having a Foreign Language and Culture Day, and that actually went really well, so we’ll try having that fall term. Math and Science Day is always winter term and Creative Arts Day is always spring term. We have anywhere from 40 to 100 kids per event.
AK: And what kind of students are they?
CS: They’re from Kindergarten to 6th grade, usually. In the past we would try to do this “College Day” to give high school students an idea of fields of study that they usually wouldn’t think of, like East Asian studies or philosophy… But the problem was that it’s really hard to get high schoolers to go out of their way for anything, so it didn’t work out. We realized that it would better to target younger kids anyway, because we’re getting them at an earlier age, and that way they’ll start thinking about these things in advance.We’re basically the organizers of these events. And a lot of this involves other clubs at Lawrence, other campus groups. For Math and Science Day, we collaborated with Bomb Squad. Greenfire and SLUG also helped out for environment activities. We kind of integrate all these things together. It’s really nice to also involve students on campus.
AK: So do you visit their schools?
CS: No, they come here. We always have the activities on a Saturday.
AK: How many Lawrence students know about this? I had no idea these things were happening.
CS: I know, that’s the problem — I mean, we always send things out to the volunteer center because we need chaperones, and we usually get a lot of people from the Greek Life system, but even this year we had trouble with that. We’ve had a lot of trouble recruiting people… I think a lot of clubs do, honestly.
AK: So the name of your group revolves around the two words “confidence” and “determination.” Beyond mere academic assistance to these kids, what do you do to foster these more holistic values?
CS: We get kids all over from Appleton — they make new friends, they make new connections, they’re exposed to new things… Maybe they’ll find that they’re really good at art! I mean, I didn’t start doing art until high school… If I would’ve been doing it more in elementary school, it would have made a much bigger impact.
AK: I guess it prepares you from an earlier age.
CS: It just helps them find what they want to focus on. I think it’s good for them to hang out with people our age too.
AK: And I guess it’s the liberal arts mindset transposed to this elementary school setting. Here we have all these opportunities — what do we choose? You just bring that to these younger kids.
CS: Yeah, they’ll have a chance to start these things earlier.
AK: What are some of the observations you’ve made about how the Appleton community approaches education and youth?
CS: One of the big things that I’ve noticed here is that Appleton has all these really awesome schools — there’s an arts school, there’s a science school, there’s the Valley New School that’s really interesting, there’s a school for special needs. Looking at it from the school district I came from in Madison, I think Appleton has a really good setup. And from working and doing practicum in schools here, the teachers I’ve been exposed to are really awesome. I’ve seen so many opportunities that the kids have. And parents seem really motivated to get their kids involved.
AK: What is the attitude of the typical child you work with?
CS: Generally they’re very excited to be there; many of them come back multiple times. The parents are the ones who signed them up, but we’ve never had problems with kids whining or crying. They always have fun. Especially when we work with Bomb Squad — the kids really like blowing stuff up. We try to do fun things like dancing, games… For the most part they get really into it.
AK: How are the activities run?
CS: This year we’ve being using Wriston Auditorium, and it’s been working flawlessly, so we’ll keep doing that. We do a little introduction, and then each activity is in a different room. So for Math and Science Day this year, we had five of the activities in Briggs and one in Youngchild. The chaperones take them from activity to activity.
CADY’s Creative Arts Day is currently scheduled for April 23 but is subject to change. If you are interested in volunteering, meetings are Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. in Andrew Commons’ Perille Dining Room. Students can join the organization at anytime.