As a liberal arts school, it’s no secret that Wheaton’s campus is full of passionate and involved students who work alongside administration and faculty to make Wheaton a better place. Cassie Peltola ’14, after graduating from Wheaton this past spring, has taken her passion for higher education and Wheaton a step further by accepting a position as Education Partnership Specialist at Wheaton. The position is a yearlong commitment through Massachusetts Campus Contact (MACC) AmeriCorps VISTA.
Peltola, who is originally from Leominster, MA, was involved in bettering Wheaton even as a student. While double-majoring in Psychology and English and minoring in General Education, Peltola also worked at the Filene Center, was an RA for three years, and held the position of Professional Resources Coordinator at the Filene Center during her senior year. Her passion for working in higher education stemmed from her experience at Wheaton. Peltola comments, “Coming into Wheaton … I wasn’t at all the critical thinker that … that Wheaton has helped me develop a passion towards becoming.”
The primary goal of MACC AmeriCorps VISTA is to end poverty through education. As an Education Partnership Specialist, Peltola works through the Office of Service, Spirituality, and Social Responsibility (SSSR) running the Norton public school outreach program. Peltola facilitates the 36 student tutors who both volunteer and work in Norton High School, Middle School, and Yelle Elementary School, as well as the 10 who work and volunteer at Headstart, a low income preschool in Norton.
“My role is to identify, share, and leverage the resources that Wheaton has to offer out into the community,” says Peltola.
Not only does Peltola facilitate the tutoring program and recruit more tutors, but she also develops new outreach programs and projects in which Wheaton further shares its resources with Norton schools. She hopes to implement both a STEM program and a literacy program at Headstart, with the intention of not only helping the preschool, but also of creating more work study jobs for Wheaton students. Peltola also hopes to recruit more Wheaton students to be Spanish and Arabic translators at Headstart, as many of the preschool students’ parents don’t speak English.
It was in part Peltola’s Wheaton experience that prompted her to implement a STEM program in the preschool. Being educated in psychology, Peltola was aware of the effects of stereotypes that inhibit certain people from going into certain fields due to presumptions about their identity group. By introducing children to STEM fields at a very young age, Peltola hopes to offset the negative effects of these stereotypes and allow all children to see their academic potential. Peltola notes that in many ways it was her liberal arts experience that prepared her for her current AmeriCorps position.
Peltola hopes to use her passion for education in the future to become a high school guidance counselor or work in human resources in higher education. But for now, Peltola is happy with her position at Wheaton.
“It’s great being back at Wheaton,” she said. “I feel like there’s this constant stream of support from so many places on campus.”