Originally published in The Brock News: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2020 | by Gillian Minaker
Pictured above: Student representatives for Brock University’s Department of Dramatic Arts Luca D’Amico (left) and Diego Blanco (right) connect virtually to discuss their new mentorship program, the DART Buddy System.
Although they’re not physically on campus this term, Diego Blanco and Luca D’Amico want to ensure Brock’s familiar sense of community is not lost amongst Dramatic Arts (DART) students.
To that end, the two student representatives created the DART Buddy System, a new mentorship program that was launched at the start of the Fall Term.
The initiative pairs first- and second-year students with mentors who are in their upper years of study. Mentors provide guidance and answer questions throughout the school year, while also offering moral support and words of wisdom gained through their own experiences in the Department of Dramatic Arts.
Currently, there are 14 mentors and 42 mentees participating in the program.
This system provides a helpful structure for new students, quickly connecting them to the strong sense of community that is foundational to DART at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.
Despite the challenging circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining that community feel and sense of belonging was a driving force behind the project, says Blanco. “We want to make this year easier and enjoyable for every student in DART,” he says.
“During these crazy times, connection with each other is so crucial — and that’s why the Buddy System is important,” adds D’Amico. “It provides students with as much support as possible, building the family that Dramatic Arts is known for.”
Blanco and D’Amico also lead the planning of weekly and monthly activities that allow all Buddy System participants to get to know each other better.
Due to public health restrictions, the landscape has drastically changed for new students, meaning those initial connections are harder to make, Blanco says.
“The reason I love the DART program is because of the relationships that happen outside the classroom, in the common rooms, in the computer commons or even just waiting for the bus,” he says. The Buddy System helps to encourage those connections in a virtual format until in-person activities can resume on campus. Blanco and D’Amico, under advisement from DART faculty and staff, are committed to providing safe opportunities for students to enjoy.
In addition to the DART Buddy System, Blanco and D’Amico assist the department with orientation sessions and facilitate communication between students and faculty. This year, they have also created the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) Student Council, which promotes open conversation among students and faculty specific to the concerns of the BIPOC student population.
Please click here to fill out the DART Buddy System form.
More information on Dramatic Arts at Brock is available on the department’s website.