Florida A&M representatives participated in a panel discussion in Orlando this weekend to kick off a collaborative mentoring program with the University of Florida and other schools.
FAMU assistant professor Lavetta Henderson said the university is excited to collaborate with other Florida schools.
“As the project moves forward, we are looking forward to working with our FAMU students as they mentor 30 fourth- and fifth-grade male students at the FAMU Developmental School,” Henderson said.
There was a 10-minute film shown that gave the history of the African-American male, featuring Spike Lee, Ice Cube, Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker and others who spoke about the prison pipeline, mentoring and the streets vs. education.
The project will bring trained junior- and senior-level students from five of Florida’s higher learning institutions to mentor fourth and fifth grade males. The team of institutions also includes Edward Waters College, Bethune-Cookman University and Florida Memorial University.
According to Ashley Thomas, communications director to state Rep. Dwayne Taylor, data will be collected through research and targeted mentoring services to 150 students across the state.
Thomas said the project came amid a recent press conference where President Barack Obama addressed the issues facing African-American youth. Goals include educational outcomes, delinquency outcomes and dependency outcomes.
Thomas said youth participants were chosen based on metrics including poverty, school grades, test scores and home and school location. Students will be paired with current university scholars who have had similar childhoods in high-risk environments.
“The goal of this project is to assist our young boys in improving school grades, improving behavior and preventing that first time at delinquency involvement,” Taylor explained. “Prevention, mentoring and guidance are the key components here.”
Taylor is the democratic ranking member of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, sitting at the helm of a funding effort proposed and passed during the legislative session on the mentoring program.
“We will meet these young men where they are and then lift them up,” he said. “This project will expose our youth to positive opportunities, the ability to cope with family conflict and the ability to prepare and plan for a bright future. The success of this project can serve as a model for other states.”
Taylor became involved in the project after speaking with Randy Nelson, founder of 21st Century Research and Evaluations Inc., who addressed the Florida Legislative Black Caucus about the need for the project. Nelson discussed the project with Patricia Green-Powell, interim dean of the College of Education, and the university became a potential partner in this collaborative project.
“We will be able to take what we are learning, particularly from our engagement approach, where these young men identify with others who look like them, sound like them and have experiences like them and move forward,” Nelson said.
“We are giving these young men a role model, literally and figuratively – someone who has walked their walk, someone who has done it and is better equipped to show other young men how to do it.”
Nelson also addressed the mentors, saying he is grateful they are up to the challenge.
“This is the most important subject you will take this semester,” he said. “You are making a difference in someone’s life. You may hear people say that by doing this you think you are better than them. Tell them: ‘No, I’m not better than you. I’m better than what you’re doing.'”