Melissa Skweres has received plenty of leadership experience during her time at York College of Pennsylvania. The junior Early Child and Special Education major serves as the executive chairwoman of the campus activities board and is involved in a host of extracurriculars.
But when she was nominated for the Developing Leaders Seminar, which pairs students with community leaders who act as mentors to give insight into leadership in the workplace, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
“I really wanted to gain an understanding of what leadership meant outside of my own world here at York College,” Melissa says.
Classmate Matt Scamuffo, a Mathematics major and member of the Spartans men’s basketball team, also sought a new outlook.
“I was always involved in athletics, captain roles, and other similar leadership positions,” the junior says. “I thought this would be a great change in perspective dealing with professionalism and leadership in the community.”
MEET YOUR MENTOR
Melissa was paired with Lisa Williams, vice president at York-based MRG Labs. Matt’s mentor is Jason Robinson, network manager for the Dover Area School District.
Both Lisa and Jason are YCP alumni. They found the seminar an excellent chance to give back to their alma mater and to serve as a guide for students – helping others as they have been helped along the way.
“I’ve had a lot of great mentors, in school and my professional life,” Lisa says. “I really see the value of mentoring – instead of a boss or teacher telling you what to do, mentors show you and teach you what to do.”
The pairs meet on campus – for lunch or in a study spot such as the library – in a relaxed and conversational atmosphere. The first meetings were spent getting to know each other.
“We’re both into sports, so I’ve gotten to know more about Matt that way,” Jason says. “We talked about his classes and plans for the future.”
Even that early meeting helped give Jason insight into Matt’s leadership ability.
“He seems like a natural leader,” Jason says. “He’s competitive on the court; but off, he’s very nice and willing to give his time to others.”
With a few meetings under their belts, the pairs have dug deeper in their discussions, analyzing what the students are learning in the class that is part of the seminar.
Melissa and Lisa found themselves in similar situations, as Lisa is working on a master’s degree in Business Administration. She’s also currently taking a leadership course.
“The foundations of management and leadership go all the way across the board,” Lisa says. “Science, education, whatever it may be – those fundamentals can be applied no matter what.”
That has helped Lisa give Melissa additional insight on the differences in leadership in college versus the workplace.
“She’s shown me how she’s worked in her leadership skills and rediscovered her own leadership in her career as opposed to being in school,” Melissa says. “We’ve talked about challenges we’ve faced recently and how we’ve taken a step back and turned it from a challenge to something more beneficial.”
BENEFITS GO MANY WAYS
Both Jason and Lisa say they have been excited to have a chance to see the quality of students following in their footsteps at YCP.
“Melissa is a superstar,” Lisa says. “The caliber of students coming out of York College is impressive. And I’m impressed with all the things Melissa can do and her involvement in things outside of classes.”
Melissa will not only continue to shine, but she’ll be able to help others do so too, based on what she feels she’s learned so far.
“I’ve really gained more insight,” she says. “Every person has a strength, and it’s about finding that strength. That gives such insight on how they will lead and how they can help you.”
Matt sees ways to help others through what he’s learned, as well.
“I’ve learned about building that team philosophy and team perspective outside of a sports team,” he says. “Hopefully, I can build on that, getting people motivated from all facets of a group.”
The York community may be bringing the benefits to the students through the mentorships, but Jason sees it reciprocated.
“I think it’s a good way to connect the community with York College,” he says. “Being able to connect local leaders and businesses with students so they are better prepared out in their field is so valuable. I think it’s a good thing for both sides.”