TOYS, a mentoring program, is FAMU-made

Photo courtesy: Jade Christie

Teaching Our Youth Science — also known as TOYS — has been serving the youth of Tallahassee since its founding by FAMU students on Oct. 3, 2000. 

Primarily serving students at Bond Elementary School and Mims Middle School to teach students math and science to prepare them for what was known then as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, now called Florida Standard Assessment. 

TOYS originally began as a way for volunteers to invest in the education of the capital city’s youth and help foster their interest in science and that. Over time, TOYS has expanded its scope and begun to focus on many different components of the organization, including community outreach events like sexual health awareness, after-school tutoring and, most recently, TOYS hosted an event titled “Pop Sock and Roll.” 

This event required TOYS members to gather and create care packages filled with socks, hygiene products and popcorn for Miracle Hill nursing home. Students were able to interact with the Miracle Hill residents and bring some light to those who may be facing personal challenges. 

Jade Christie, TOYS’ vice president, recalls her excitement when joining TOYS. Participating in pop sock and roll was her introduction to the organization.

“The first event I had the pleasure of being a part of after I made the decision to join TOYS was the sock pop and roll,” Christie said. “I went to the nursing home to help disperse the goodie bags and it was such a great experience to feel the warm welcome of the elderly residents of Miracle Hill, they were so happy to have new visitors.”  

The organization also incorporates a research aspect aimed at assisting students in their professional growth. Since most participants in TOYS are majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — STEM — emphasizing support for research will enhance their academic pursuits and future professional endeavors.

Christie says the research component of TOYS has created an impact in her academic career since joining TOYS.

 “When I joined TOYS research I received assistance with learning how to properly conduct a research study and better my presentation skills,” Jade said. “I was able to build a research portfolio by getting published in a science article and I had the opportunity to present at three symposiums. TOYS has awarded me with so many opportunities to advance my skills as a leader mentor, and student.”

D’Elia Bonilla says volunteering with TOYS has made a difference in her life.

“Since I have joined TOYS I have had many face-to-face interactions with students whether it was volunteering to help teachers during the school day or staying after school on Tuesdays to help tutor students in efforts to help with preparation for FSA,” Bonilla said. “I enjoy assisting teachers in hands-on activities and getting to help shape our future adults. We look forward to implementing more after-school programs that can meet multiple times a week to help further our reach to students.”

TOYS recently invited Johanna Welch, an environmental specialist at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, to host an informational meeting where she spoke about her recent environmental studies and how FAMU students can get involved. During this event, TOYS was able to showcase some of FAMU’s entomology class and create a connection between students who may not be familiar with their work. Their current research is dedicated to issues that have been become more prevalent in Tallahassee’s local community and they are always seeking more enthusiastic researchers.