Severin Chambers ’14: Rugby Star Mentors Special-Needs Children
Severin Chambers can most often be found scrumming on the rugby field, showing off Spring Hill College to prospective students, and leading campus events as president of Sigma Chi fraternity.
The psychology major from Boston, Mass., at first, hadn’t considered Spring Hill as a choice for college, but decided to stop on campus while visiting other schools in the Deep South. Chambers enjoyed his tour of SHC, but made his final decision about moving to Mobile, Ala., after receiving a phone call from Spring Hill’s president.
“Fr. Salmi just wanted to talk, and that’s something that means a lot to me,” says Chambers. “We discussed sports, the (Boston Red) Sox, life, and what I was thinking about. He never once pressured me into coming to Spring Hill. Fr. Salmi has touched a lot of lives and is a great guy.”
Chambers began classes at SHC in the fall of 2010 and found himself one of only two people from Massachusetts. “I got involved in activities right away,” says Chambers. “Spring Hill is such an easy place to fit in. Joining clubs and finding a core group of friends is the best way to have fun, succeed, and get the most out of your college experience.”
Dr. Harold Dorton, associate professor of sociology, says that it is clear Chambers takes advantage of all the opportunities Spring Hill offers. “While he's involved with so many aspects of campus life outside of academics, he also leaves an impression in the classroom,” says Dorton. “He is interested in many things and is not afraid to share ideas, explanations, and opinions with the class. I think he engages material by talking through it, and he often brings others along with him.”
Assistant professor of psychology Dr. Estevan Ruiz Limón adds that Chambers has been a joy to have a student. "He brings a certain animation and flair to discussions, as well as a unique point-of-view, that really helps to vitalize the educational experience," says Dr. Ruiz Limón. "He has proven to be a genuine, sincere, and giving young man who acts out his ideals on a daily basis."
Outside the classroom, Chambers’ passion is advocacy and leadership programs which involve young children. “I love working with kids. Every job I’ve had since I was 14 has involved them—at camps, between classes, and with my service work,” says Chambers. “It seems to be my niche—I really enjoy mentoring and helping kids.”
At 6’ 2”, Chambers towers above students at The Little Tree, a government-funded preschool in Mobile. The children who attend range in age from 2 to 4, and are both typical and atypical (an identifier for children on the autistic spectrum.) Chambers became involved in The Little Tree through his psychology field experience, and calls his time at the school an amazing learning opportunity.
“It’s a way for me to apply my knowledge outside the classroom,” explains Chambers. “I gain real-world experience, and feel like all of the volunteers really make a difference for these kids.”
Twice a week, along with several Spring Hill classmates, Chambers spends four hours in an integrated classroom. “Tuesdays and Thursdays, we come in, sit down on the carpet, and have circle time. We sing, learn the alphabet, numbers, and talk about shapes,” says Chambers. “It’s all about getting core skills down, helping the kids with social interaction, and reinforcing positive behaviors.”
During lunchtime, Chambers works with students on improving fine motor skills. “It’s been great seeing kids progress and I’ve really enjoyed experiencing how much they’ve all grown toward me,” adds Chambers. “During recess, they make me into a human jungle gym. I love it!”
Little Tree boasts a 2:1 student-teacher ratio, which ensures plenty of attention for children with special needs. For those kids who tend to be non-verbal, iPads are used for communication. “The kids point out what they need or want on the screen,” explains Chambers. “It’s a great tool that helps alleviate frustration and helps teachers and volunteers with problem-solving.”
Chambers uses his mentoring skills and problem-solving abilities for more than just The Little Tree. SHC Rugby Coach Mollie McCarthy says that his dedication and leadership have been instrumental in making the school’s teams cohesive.
“Severin took on the role of mentoring our new freshmen this year, both for the men's and women's teams,” explains McCarthy. “Severin looks out for them, meets with them, helps them with keeping their grades up, and making sure they are adjusting to life on the Hill. Very few people would give up their free time to ensure the betterment of others, but this just exemplifies the type of person Severin is.”
Other extracurricular activities during Chambers’ time at Spring Hill include involvement in the student government association and The Springhillian. While on summer break, he works as a waterfront director for underprivileged children at Sunset Point Camp in Hull, Mass., managed by Greater Boston Catholic Charities.
As a volunteer, student, and athlete, Chambers follows the Jesuit promise of learning, faith, justice and service for life. “My personal philosophy is simple—love God, work hard, and take good care of one another,” says Chambers. “It’s a saying my favorite headmaster ingrained on all of the students during high school and it’s stayed with me ever since. I try to incorporate it into everything I do.”
After graduation, Chambers will consider applying to graduate school to study criminology. Ultimately, he plans on pursuing a career in law enforcement with the special victims unit or working in child protective services.
* Severin Chambers (center) is pictured on the featured website photo with Spring Hill Rugby Coach Mollie McCarthy and senior teammate Sean Hershman.