Siena Mentors Guide Tomorrow’s Leaders Today

Sean O’Brien, OFM Around the Province

Sean with coordinators of the Siena Mentoring Program during a recent basketball game. (Photo courtesy of Sean O’Brien)

This article has been reprinted with permission from Siena magazine, a publication for alumni and friends of Siena College. It has been edited for style.

LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. — Let’s admit it, millennials often get a bad rap. They have been called lazy, entitled, tech-obsessed, and materialistic. They have been described as the “Me, Me, Me” generation. The students in Siena College’s Mentoring Program are a different breed. I’ve found them to be selfless, hardworking, compassionate and willing to sacrifice for a greater good beyond their own interests.

The Siena Mentoring Program began more than 50 years ago and continues to enjoy a rich, colorful legacy at Siena. It was founded by Jim Snyder, a beloved Siena community member and pioneer, during a time of much civil and racial unrest. Jim and his college buddies courageously moved beyond the tree-lined campus of Siena to the city streets of Albany. They befriended city youth who longed for connection and guidance, and a hope for something better.

With the help of God’s grace, the Mentoring Program was born.

Today, the spirit of Jim Snyder’s legacy lives on. Every Saturday afternoon, two busloads of highly energized, excited kids from the city of Albany come to campus. They are greeted, not by self-absorbed millennials, but by Siena Mentors, who volunteer every Saturday afternoon to offer their friendship, guidance, and memories that will last a lifetime.

The friendships and memories continue during the summer months. For six weeks, the Siena campus provides the beautiful setting for the summer camp. The days of our volunteer summer mentors are long and full. They wear many hats and play in a variety of roles, serving as coaches, tutors, lifeguards or EMTs, other times as counselors who lend a listening ear or offer a shoulder to cry on.

Whether reading “The Outsiders,” playing Marco Polo in the pool or sweating through a game of capture the flag, Siena Mentors exemplify the best qualities of our students. They make the Franciscan values we teach real and alive. They affirm the unique worth and value of all the “littles” in their care, and show optimism and hope in the most challenging times.

The mentors are not afraid to go the extra mile to show their “littles” they are cared for and loved. In their free time, some mentors visit their littles at school, attend sporting activities or birthday parties, or pick them up to get ice cream.

Siena Mentors remind us about what distinguishes Siena from other colleges. They reveal the best of the Franciscan values we seek to convey and express our commitment to building a world that is more just, peaceful and humane.

— Fr. Sean, a native of Albany, is director of Siena College’s mentoring program.  He works in the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy. Sean, who professed his final vows as a Franciscan in 1997, also helps at the local county jail and with parochial ministries in the area.

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