Today we are having a birthday celebration on SowtheHeart.com for Fred Rogers. I’m sharing the following interview because we all could use a little insight into what it means to be a good neighbor like Mr. Rogers of television fame.
Sydney Schoff, a twenty-something young adult will shed some light for our SowtheHeart.com readers because she is a “Fred Rogers Scholar,” one of very few. She spent four years while at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania studying the legacy of the man at The Fred Rogers Center, as part of her education in earning her Batchelor’s degree in early childhood education. From that experience, she truly knows him as if she lived next door to Fred Rogers her entire lifetime. Please follow along with us on this two-part blog series.
Sue: Sydney, I was so delighted to meet you at the two-part discussion on the book The Simple Faith of Fred Rogers at the Bel Air United Methodist Church. Your knowledge of Mr. Rogers’ legacy added greatly to the discussion. I’d like to ask you a few more questions.
Sue: What was the criteria for being chosen as a “Rogers Scholar”?
Sydney: Being selected as a member of the Fred Rogers Scholars program is a process that starts very early in someone’s college career. Since this scholarship is merit-based, students applying must have at least at 3.5 GPA in high school. Another requirement is that you want to make the world a better place for children, whether that is directly in your career, in your personal life, or both. A student that is interested in the program applies and submits an essay during their senior year of high school. If their essay and application are selected, they are given a phone interview. Once all the candidates are interviewed, five students to participate in the program.
Sue: Tell me a little about the demographics of other people who were at the Fred Rogers Center to study his legacy.
Sydney: The opportunity to work and research at the Fred Rogers Center through the Incubator 143 lab is open to all students on campus. The majority of work study students study psychology, education, or communication, but there have been several students over the years with other interests such as biology, history, theology, etc. Much like the Scholars program, the only requirement to work at the Center is that you want to make the world a better place for children in any way that you can.
Sue: When I saw you wearing the Incubator 143 tee-shirt at the discussion at Bel Air United Methodist Church, my interest was piqued. Can you share more with our readers what it is all about? And I loved the cardigan sweater all Rogers Scholars earn (or are given??) as part of the program.
Sydney: Absolutely! Incubator 143 is the undergraduate research lab that is part of the Fred Rogers Center. Working in Incubator 143 presents students the opportunity to participate in several research and service projects that benefit the helpers of children and families in a diverse range of communities such as childcare centers, hospitals, summer camps, orphanages overseas, and more.
The red sweater is certainly a perk of becoming a Fred Rogers Scholar. Freshman scholars are given their sweaters during their induction ceremony. Scholars are encouraged to wear their sweaters at the majority of Center and Scholar events they attend. It is a very fun part of the program for us.
Sue: What did you absorb or learn about Fred Rogers, about his television presence and as a family man, that you did not know before your affiliation with the program?
Sydney: This answer could be endless. I understood the basics about Fred Rogers going into the program. I knew that he was a person that truly embodied what kindness was supposed to be. My favorite little fun fact about Fred that I learned is probably that his mother knitted all of his famous sweaters for him. That just really warms my heart. But one of the most important things that I learned and that I think people need to understand about Fred is that his kind and gentle nature did not make way for a pushover. Fred was strong, persistent, and determined. He understood the importance of his mission and would not let anyone or anything stand in his way.
Sue: How does life within the boundaries of The Fred Rogers Center in Latrobe, PA contrast or compare with life outside it’s walls that you wish to bring forward in the way you live your life?
Sydney: One of the biggest lessons I learned while working and studying at the Fred Rogers Center was how to balance being a leader and being part of a team. The group of people I had the pleasure of working with at the Center are some of the most genuine, hard-working, and passionate people I have ever known. Being able to work with them has allowed me to see how being supported by people who want to see you succeed as much as they want to succeed themselves is a beautiful and rare thing that I hope to embody as I continue my career in various work environments.
**** Please return on March 23, 2020 to the second part of this very interesting interview with Fred Rogers Scholar, Sydney Schoff. We will continue the discussion with the question – How can we do better as American people to display the values Fred Rogers believed in and represented?
Anything that we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service.”
― Fred Rogers a.k.a. Mr. Rogers