Social work students help DRS lay ‘F’ to rest

Some students at the Florida A&M University Developmental Research School are facing a major obstacle with the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, but the students in the social work department at Florida A&M University are helping ease the process.

Students in grades 3-11 will take the FCAT on March 11, which will test the students on their reading, science and mathematical skills.

The students have been preparing for this exam all year, but with help from the Student Social Work Association, their goal of success may be even more achievable.

Katisa Donaldson, visiting professor of social work at FAMU, has been SSWA adviser since summer 2007. Since then, SSWA has adopted three areas in which to devote their community service throughout the school year.

One of those areas is FAMU DRS.

At the school, members volunteer their time doing various activities, but one of the programs the group prides itself on is the FCAT Saturday program, created by Donaldson.

Since fall of last year, FAMU student volunteers assisted DRS students to prepare them for the big exam.

Donaldson said her students have been doing a lot to help the DRS students.

“We are smothering them with love… I believe the students, based on the services the social work department provides for them, should be ready for the test,” Donaldson said.

Tia Wilson, 22, a senior social work student from Gainesville, interns at DRS and helps register the students for the program.

Wilson said an average of 85 students attended the program each Saturday, and she believes it was a success.

“All of the students who took advantage will appreciate what we’re doing,” she said.

Before the students take the test, they are going to have a funeral.

During a pep rally in the DRS gym Friday at 1 p.m. there will be a skit performed by SSWA program students. This will feature a funeral, complete with a preacher, ushers, a choir and the casket. Being laid to rest is the “F” grade that DRS was given by the Florida Department of Education.

Also, there will be a student versus teacher basketball game where students will be wearing “A” T-shirts, and the teachers will be wearing “F” T-shirts. The goal is for the students to beat the “F”, which represents their school grade as well as the FCAT.

Roger Walker, DRS secondary reading faculty member and a program volunteer, said the pep rally is the boost that students need.

“The pep rally will be the icing on the cake, leaving students feeling encouraged and inspired to do their best,” he said.

SSWA members said their involvement with the program and other activities has helped the students’ response to the negative publicity the school has been receiving.

Tiia Wilson, 22, a senior social work student from Tampa, is SSWA president. She sees improvement in the students.

“Our efforts have worked. We’re not only there for education, but for mentoring and counseling,” Wilson said. “They’ve not yet realized they’re going to be in the real world. The stigma placed on the school gives them a negative attitude. We try our best to be influential.”

Some SSWA efforts include helping the cheerleading team practice, sponsoring the baseball team and setting up a concession stand at its games.

The students at DRS have expressed their appreciation.

Artaveya Ingram, 16, a DRS student, attended the program and is thankful for the FAMU students’ help.

“They’ve been a great impact,” Ingram said. “I was afraid of taking the test, but since the Saturday sessions, I feel like I learned a lot of stuff I haven’t known before and now I’m ready to take the exam.”

In response to the involvement of FAMU organizations at DRS, Walker hopes the pep rally isn’t the last of events FAMU students will take part in.

“There’s always a dire need for connectivity to stay in place and grow and for campus organizations to help us address other aspects of our student growth besides academics,” he said.

The pep rally is open to the community. For more information, contact Katisa Donaldson at