Most college students have never worked in a school a day of their lives.

They have experienced what being behind a desk is like, but never from the front of the classroom. Many can remember the years a specific teacher who pushed you to do your homework assignments. Stepping outside of that perspective and into those of the teacher’s is uncommon. Did you ever think of their challenges and efforts? It is difficult to understand looking from the bubble of a student but stepping outside can drastically change a student’s view of a tough teacher.

Students in the Mentor and Tutor Internship (MTI) program at the University of Rhode Island aim to do just that; get a new perspective on the American education system. Run by a group of student teaching assistants, those enrolled take a recitation on education policy and reform along with their internship at local schools pre-k to high school.

“We understand from the things we learn in our course that having a role model and someone to look up to encourages students,” said MTI student director, Steven Ardente. “Some of our interns interact with students whose families have never been to college before, so we provide them with support and desire to make it to college like we did.”

MTI stretches across the state from city schools in Providence to the local community, like The Compass School, right down the road from URI. Some of the other placements include the Urban Collaborative Accelerated Program (UCAP), also in Providence and the Academic Success Academy, an after school program in South Kingstown. MTI students can also work with the Rhode Island Family Literacy Program, to help teach those with English as a Second Language (ESL).

“I joined the MTI program following co-teaching a summer program in Central Falls,” said Billy Bowden, one of the MTI teaching assistants. “I was inspired to be a part of a mentoring program that engaged underrepresented students and faculty.”

Since its beginning in 1998, the MTI program has strived to give URI students and teachers extra support to reach their goals in the classroom, and to foster educated and insightful discussion on school policy at the university.

“We engage in conversation that will help us become critical citizens,” said Bowden. “By debating and supporting one another during recitation we are opening our minds to the critical and existential questions of our era.”

Grace Asquith, one of the new interns this semester, said she is looking forward to working hands on with students at her placement in South Kingstown.

“I hope to impact at least one person’s life while being a mentor,” said Asquith. “It’s going to be one of the most influential programs I’ll be involved in, for both the students involved and for myself.”

Through the course, student mentors will complete 44 hours in their placement school along with the recitation and receive four credits either in political science or education.