Mentors seek to inspire Southside children

Students, faculty and staff are answering the call of local Southside schools during the University’s Black History Month celebration, “FAMU Living the Dream.”

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., which desegregated public schools nationwide, university officials have decided to provide mentors to local Southside schools.

Eight hundred volunteers, or 50 volunteers per week per school, will be assigned to eight Southside schools including Bond Elementary School, Pine View Elementary School and Rickards High School.

“The hope is that people will see that there’s a great need for us to be in schools on the Southside,” said Director of Student Union and Activities Alice Mathis. “I think it’s such a worthy thing to contribute, to have just another individual showing some interest.”

At the Wednesday interest meeting, Mathis told about 80 volunteers of the correct protocol that mentors must go through in order to mentor in the Leon County Public School District. Mathis also explained the importance of being visible throughout the community at such a momentous occasion and even after the anniversary has passed.

“One on one can make such an impact,” Mathis said in an earlier interview.

Prospective mentors echoed Mathis’s sentiments and were enthusiastic about the opportunity to positively impact someone else’s life.

“I think (mentoring) is very much needed,” said Ariane McMillan, 21, a third year business administration student from Jacksonville.

According to Mathis, beginning the mentoring program in February is a part of an effort to improve students’ Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores. The controversial test, which is to be administered this month and during March, is a factor in student promotion and graduation. The test also determines the schools’ grade.

The initiative gives Rattlers their own test – a challenge to see how much of an impact a mentor has on the life of a child. However, some volunteers are questioning the length of the celebration, saying that a month is not long enough to impact the entire Southside community in a manner compatible with its needs.

“I’ve mentored before in L.A.,” said Gregory Muhammed, 25, a junior history student from Inglewood, Calif. “The discouraging thing is that this is seasonal.”

Mathis explained that the program’s objective is to encourage participants to grow from one-time volunteers to a child’s permanent mentor, which “is a larger, more committed role,” Mathis said.

Although it is a short-term volunteer opportunity, the program provides an avenue to introduce FAMU students to the Southside’s public schools.

“Mentoring is very important to me,” Muhammed said. “We get a chance to impact the youth and to tell them who they are and where they’re from.”