On sunny summer days, Silver Lake College senior Austin Allen-Walker can be spotted outdoors supervising children who are climbing on the playground equipment at Madison Elementary School in Manitowoc.
He is interning during the summer of 2015 with the Manitowoc-Two Rivers YMCA children's summer program called Y B.R.E.A.K., which is held at the elementary school, and he's earning college credit in psychology while he does it.
In addition to occasional playground breaks, the program offers swimming, sports and games, art, gymnastics, character development, computer lab time, music, nutrition education, literacy programming and field trips.
"I chose this summer internship because it helps me understand kids," said Austin, who is majoring in psychology with a minor in family services. "There a high demand for male role models. The children respond well to me. It's a program where I can make a difference and it's fun."
He decided to pursue psychology because it was a better fit for him than the business major he had originally signed up for. "I'm really interested in people and what causes them to do what they do," said the Milwaukee native.
A tragedy in his life also provided an impetus for his decision.
"One of my buddies committed suicide and I didn't understand it," Austin said. "I don't want anyone else to get to that point. I don't want to see anyone in a situation where they feel like they can't talk to anybody. I'm driven by wanting to help people."
Working with children has helped him be more understanding.
"To me, it's not just a job," Austin said. "I'm there to teach them. I want them to feel safe, like somebody cares about them."
Austin's life seemed to be going nowhere a few years ago, when a friend and alumnus urged him to attend Silver Lake College, where he could study and play basketball. Austin transferred and received an Athletic Scholarship, Transfer Class Scholarship and Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Grant.
He liked the fact that the college was small enough for him to get to know faculty, staff and other students on a deeper level.
At Silver Lake College, he's taken part in basketball and cross country, Lakers Legislation student government, is a Resident Assistant in the dorms, part of the college's Diversity Initiative, participated in a student activity conference in Madison, Wis., and spoke at a campus Leadership Summit and the college's annual fundraising gala.
"I've participated in activities I never thought I could do," Austin said.
(By Suzanne Weiss, SLC)