Mentoring youth is group’s top priority

A group of Florida A&M University students are trying to help make the dreams of working in the science field a reality.

Teaching Our Youth Science, or T.O.Y.S., is aimed at helping inner-city kids reach goals they may have decided were too hard to achieve.

“Science is a hard field, no matter how you look at it,” said Matthew Rodriguez, 20, the group’s president. “The inner city kids don’t get the funding for tutors and exercises. We (want to) get out there and make sure the kids have what they need.”

The sophomore pharmacy student from Sarasota said going out and helping students who lack the resources needed to get ahead of the game is a big part in why he is part of the organization.

The group was started by the vision of one person who, with the help of several other students, wished to get out into the community and assist those who were in need. The majority of the help is in the science field and the students, most of whom major in the sciences, are eager to show children they can excel in an challenging areas.

“One thing I’ve realized is (the students) seem to lack confidence,” said Ariana Burgess, 21, a junior chemistry student from Miami. “When we’re tutoring them, we’re also giving them that boost in confidence.”

Burgess, said that she has seen the help they can do for the community and continues to be a part of the experience to motivate other college students to get involved.

“Being a chemistry major, it seemed like the most logical thing to do,” Burgess said.

The organization has come a long way since its inception on the fourth floor of Jones Hall, where many of FAMU’s science classes are held. Last year, a science fair was held for students in several schools in Tallahassee that are a part of the T.O.Y.S. tutoring curriculum.

It started with a trip to the Mary Brogan Museum of Arts and Sciences, followed by a viewing of science fair projects in FAMU’s grand ballroom. The next fair may include schools from Gainesville and Jacksonville, Burgess said.

Robin Sanders, a junior chemistry student from Jacksonville, said she’s seen students become more excited with going to college after seeing the tutors in action.

“It’s very influential,” the 19-year-old said. “We as college students (are inspiring) them to go to college.”

She said with the science portion of Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test becoming a larger part of the equation for students, the group has been working with teachers to get FCAT materials to use with the children. A science portion of the FCAT was added in 2003, and lawmakers began a push for the science portion to be given to 11th- graders, instead of the intended 10th-graders who took it last year.

Contact Marlon A. Walker at