NORMAL — Even as a teenager, Illinois State University student Margeaux McReynolds saw her future with Chicago public school children.
Though she attended a private Chicago-area high school, she volunteered weekends to tutor younger children in the city's public schools.
"I just knew there was a need for a lot of help there," she said.
Next month, the senior early-childhood education major will student-teach in Chicago. And, thanks to a pilot ISU program, she'll bring a bundle of extra leadership tools with her.
McReynolds is among six ISU College of Education students who, as charter recipients of the college's Bowman Fellowships, have received leadership training targeting future minority teachers.
The program is named for ISU President Al Bowman in honor of his historic role as the university's first minority president, said Lynda Irvin, program director and educational administration and foundations professor.
"As long as I can remember I was teaching other people, helping my friends with their math or science homework," McReynolds said.
She especially likes helping young children, she said. And she finds herself drawn to trying to help children considered by many as troublemakers.
"Sometimes they just need someone to be extra patient and shine some attention on them," she said.
It's that passion for public education that played a role in ISU officials' selection of McReynolds for the inaugural fellows group.
Besides earning a $500 book stipend each semester, McReynolds and the other fellows had the opportunity to meet with ISU's president.
She also will wear special honor cords during ISU's May commencement ceremony, and she'll have a letter of recommendation.
A partnership between ISU's College of Education and the McLean County Urban League Satellite Office, the program incorporates leadership training, tutoring Twin City schoolchildren and a mentor matchmaker program.
Grant money from Bill and Melinda Gates Leadership Challenge allows Irvin to teach a leadership course to the fellows.
"It's a huge honor (having it named Bowman Fellowships), particularly because it's a program created to address a longstanding problem in the school system," Bowman said.
Though the population of Illinois students who aren't Caucasian continues to rise, the pool of minority teachers has been decreasing, he said.
"That's not to say only teachers of color can relate to students of color. But a diverse work force provides a variety of models for all the students," he said.
In its first year, the program leaders and students have been laying the groundwork for future years.
"We started with just six (fellows)this year, but next year we'll have 12," Irvin said. She said feedback from McReynolds and the other fellows helps make the program fir their needs.
"We see what's working for them," she said.
The Gates Foundation class helped fellows apply learner-centered leadership in classrooms, Irvin said.
McReynolds, 21, took those lessons to Sheridan Elementary School in Bloomington. This semester, she spent mornings working with Ken Hamerlincks' first-graders.
She also found the leadership lessons useful in her volunteer work in the Normal Public Library's after-school program.
The Pantagraph/DAVID PROEBER
Margeaux McReynolds, an Illinois State University Bowman Fellow, worked on a reading project with first-graders at Sheridan Elementary School in Bloomington.