Hayley Sweatman recently spent three hours cleaning cabinets, spreading mulch, restocking shelves and taking care of other small maintenance jobs at Siskin at Little Miss Mag Early Learning Center.
Her 180 minutes of work landed her a job.
A freshman at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Sweatman will work one day a week as a teaching assistant with children with special needs. It’s an excellent fit for someone majoring in early elementary education who wants real-world experience.
“I’m very excited,” Sweatman—a native of McDonough, Georgia—said a few days before her first shift. “I have babysat, but I haven’t done anything officially like a fully employed job with kids.”
Sweatman’s roommate, nursing major Bayli Sigman—who hails from Memphis—worked the same day at Little Miss Mag and now has a teaching assistant job at the center.
They encouraged psychology major Cas Sandefer, also a roommate and a native of Memphis, to apply for a job at Little Miss Mag. She, too, has now become a teaching assistant at the center.
Sweatman, Sigman and Sandefer—along with their fourth roommate, Ellington Loy from Nashville—were in a group of 10 freshmen who volunteered for a morning of work in Siskin at Little Miss Mag Early Learning Center earlier this semester. All are members of AdvanceU Leadership, a Themed Learning Community at UTC managed by Daniel Grzesik, director of the Center for Career and Leadership Development.
AdvanceU, open to freshmen and sophomores, is not connected to an academic course or discipline. The community is co-sponsored by the Office of Civic Engagement.
“I think how important it is to lead with the heart,” Grzesik said, “and I think that’s what we did as representatives of UTC at Little Miss Mag. We led with our heart and we saw the impact that people could make.”
Grzesik said Little Miss Mag was one of the options the UTC students could choose for a service project from a list compiled by United Way of Greater Chattanooga, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
Emily Nasca, center manager of Little Miss Mag, said the UTC students were not only hard workers but also easy to work with.
“It was really nice and easy that we could hand them a sheet; they could follow directions and get it done well,” she said. “And three of the volunteers came on as staff, so that’s fantastic.”
Grzesik said AdvanceU is designed to get UTC students out into local communities, finding out what residents need and trying to help them get it. He describes it as a “community voice,” and the work at Little Miss Mag benefited both the learning center and the UTC students.
“It made the students feel that their work was important and making an impact,” he said.