Lending a loving hand in South Africa

Mary Bocskocsky's stint overseas has made her a more passionate teacher


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  • Teaching literacy skills was a major focus for Mount student Mary Bocskocsky during her recent humanitarian trip to South Africa’s Cape Town (Photo provided)




  • Mary Bocskocsky reads to children in South Africa (Photo provided)




  • Mary Bocskocsky tutors a child at South Africa’s Ikalthemba children’s shelter (Photo provided)



“The toughest part was going into the township every day and seeing the living conditions of the people in that community. It was a hard reality to accept, that they live in such poverty. It made me very thankful for what I have at home. Just waking up is a gift, and a warm shower is a luxury I’m lucky to have.”
Mary Bocskocsky


— Mary Bocskocsky of Milford, a Mount Saint Mary College student on the childhood education track, has much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. Fusing hands-on education with a passion for philanthropy, she recently taught basic math and English skills to underprivileged children in South Africa.

Bocskocsky, who has held leadership positions in the college’s student government for the last four years, wanted to put her teaching techniques to the test before graduating this December. With the aid of Emily Marmo and Ashley Knox of the Mount’s Office for International Programs, she decided to take a humanitarian journey to Gordon’s Bay in Cape Town, South Africa.

At the Ikalthemba children’s shelter, Bocskocsky spent weeks teaching basic literacy and mathematic skills to a classroom of three- to five-year-olds. The teacher candidate increased her students’ skills by reading to them, singing songs, introducing them to math problems, and having them write the alphabet on a small blackboard.

“I took lesson plans that I made here at the Mount and brought that over to Cape Town,” said Bocskocsky. “While I was teaching in South Africa, I saw how much I had gained from the Mount’s education program. Without my Mount classes, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

Lessons taught, lessons learned

Some parts of Cape Town are nearly indistinguishable from any prosperous American city. Many visitors liken it to San Francisco, Bocskocsky said. However, other areas are a far cry from the home of the Golden Gate Bridge.

“The toughest part was going into the township every day and seeing the living conditions of the people in that community,” said Bocskocsky. “It was a hard reality to accept, that they live in such poverty. It made me very thankful for what I have at home. Just waking up is a gift, and a warm shower is a luxury I’m lucky to have.”

But the residents were always in good spirits. “There’s a huge sense of community there,” she reported.

Having returned from South Africa in time for the fall semester, Bocskocsky is currently student teaching at Glenham Elementary School in Beacon, N.Y. Under the tutelage of her cooperating teacher, Mount graduate Danielle Yeaple, Bocskocsky is educating second- and third-grade children. She says the lessons she learned down in Africa have aided her immensely.

“I tell my students that there are kids in South Africa, just like them, learning how to read,” she said. “And that makes them want to learn more about different cultures.”

Mount education professor Jane Gangi “had a great influence” on her, Bocskocsky said.

“She really focuses on literacy," she said. "She’s very passionate about what she teaches and that carries over to us and our students.”

With the help of her professors and the college’s Office for International Programs, Bocskocsky hopes to create a recurring humanitarian trip to South Africa for Mount education students, similar to the School of Nursing’s annual journey to impoverished areas of the Dominican Republic. Last spring break, more than a dozen Mount nursing students assessed residents’ health and provided care to individuals and families.

“If other students could experience what I did, it could really help them grow as a person and a teacher,” said Bocskocsky.




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