Our names are Aleni Mackarey and Brian Dierze. We are freshmen this year at Lafayette College, and so far, we have loved every bit of our Leopard experience! Over the summer, we participated in the Pre-Orientation Service Program and were both fortunate enough to be involved with the Kids in the Community portion of the program. We loved bonding with the children and seeing their excited faces as they joined us in activities each day. At the end of the week, it was sad to say goodbye to our new friends.
When the semester began, we jumped at the chance to be reunited with the kids through KIC, a Landis program that allowed us to help out weekly at the community room of a low income housing neighborhood in Easton. Arriving at KIC for the first time, we were thrilled to hear the kids calling our names and telling us how much they missed us and all the exciting new experiences they wanted to share with us. My favorite memory was hearing one of the little girls tell me that every time she and her friends played “House,” she would pretend her name was Aleni and try to make her hair look like mine. Brian loved hearing the kids refer to him using the old nickname they made for him, “Brain.” We love being part of a place where the kids know they can come for a few fun, safe and productive hours.
KIC Tuesdays are quite simply one of the highlights of our week. The excitement starts the moment we step off the bus and head down to the community center, and doesn’t come to an end until we are back on campus. Seeing all the kids eagerly waiting for us was an extremely heart warming moment. Having heard other people say it before, we learned it really is true that when you go to KIC, you entirely forget about college and any other issues that you may be dealing with. Its difficult to put this experience into words because it really is so much fun and so rewarding at the same time. A fond memory I [Brian] hold is one of the days when I spent most of the two hours we’re there hanging out with one of the older kids that goes there. Not only did she beat me thoroughly and completely in multiple games of hangman, but we really got to know each other. We talked about music, sports, dancing, and countless other topics. Just hanging out with someone I would never normally meet and finding things in common with them that you would have never expected to find is what really makes KIC special.
One interesting thing that struck us one day was how extremely close every single one of the kids was with their friends. Essentially, its one large family. Watching them, every child interacts well and closely with their counterparts. If someones acting up, the others will talk to him or her and calm them down. If someone gets upset, often the kids are there even before one of us and are already at work to smooth things over. Having grown up in a distant neighborhood where you had to have your mom drive you if you wanted to hang out with friends has really made this mind boggling to me, and we feel that the community atmosphere really helps these kids grow and mature. Its certainly amazing to watch!
Another great aspect of KIC is getting to bond with fellow Lafayette students in KIC. Everyone is so friendly and respectful of each other. As a team, we all benefit from the incredible examples set by our leaders, Devon and Zach. We work on Tuesdays with Devon and it is so adorable to see how much the kids really look up to her. She makes it a point to form a special relationship with each child.
We are eager to continue to learn from, and give back to, the citizens of Easton through KIC and we are so grateful to be a part of such an amazing program!