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Otterbein students mentor seventh graders with Bro Time

Otterbein students mentor seventh graders with Bro Time

Middle school can be a difficult time for any student. There is a lot of uneasiness about friends, relationships and the world. That’s why one Otterbein student group spends some lunch hours at Walnut Spring Middle School in Westerville.

“Bro Time began as a way to be positive role models for students who could really use one,” said group co-leader Evan Hepp ’19. “We help them build confidence in themselves and really understand how to relate to one another.”

As first-year Cardinal Corps Leaders in spring 2016, Hepp and his co-leader Gavin Terry ’19 had the opportunity step into leadership roles for the group, which was then called Boys Club. They quickly changed the name to Bro Time to be more appealing to 12- to 13-year-old male students.

Bro Time volunteers arrive at Walnut Springs Middle School every Thursday at 10:40 a.m. and spend the lunch period with their 15 students talking about issues they face each day and doing icebreaker exercises designed to encourage understanding and cooperation in small groups of three students and one Otterbein mentor. Several of the games come directly from Otterbein new student orientations such as giving instructions on how to draw a picture to a blindfolded partner.

In just over one year of leadership, Hepp has seen major impacts of their work.

“Each semester the number of students increases. They really thrive in the smaller group work and get the chance to break-out of their shells and work together,” Hepp said. “We really want to show these young men what being vulnerable is like and how that’s an ok way to be at times. Also, how they can support another person in the process.”

Tom Markle, a seventh grade school counselor at Walnut Springs Middle School, says he couldn’t have asked for better partners than Bro Time.

“They are definitely a positive influence on our kids,” he says. “We try to pair mentors with students who may have had some difficult times with attendance or poor attitudes in the classroom, and the results are almost immediately seen. The students respect each other more and they carry that positivity throughout the rest of the week. Otterbein has sent us truly excellent male role models. We definitely need as many as we can get.”

Hepp, a middle childhood education major, really sees this as a way to experience challenges he may face as a middle school teacher in the future, right now. It helps him understand just what students this age respond to and how to build support groups around those needs. It’s an experience this early that Hepp realizes is unique.

“If I was at some other school besides Otterbein, there’s no way I’d be able to do this much work already as a sophomore. Even before Bro Time I was volunteering with America Reads for third graders, then I had the opportunity to co-lead this organization and it’s all been amazing. Helping students is always something I wanted to do and now I’m doing it.”


If you would like to volunteer with Bro Time, please call Evan Hepp at 937-751-6943.

Learn more about Otterbein’s Department of Education programs.

Find out how you can volunteer with the Center for Community Engagement.