Florida A&M University Student Writer
(BLACK PR WIRE/FAMU-TALLAHASSEE) "" The University of Florida has partnered with Florida A&M University, Bethune-Cookman University, Florida Memorial and Edward Waters College for an educational research project geared toward young black males. The project is essentially a mentoring program for high-risk, black fourth and fifth graders.
Dr. Randy Nelson, Founder of 21st Century Research and Evaluations, Inc., developed the Situational Environmental Circumstances Model from his research while working with the juvenile and criminal justice department. Upon presenting his research, his colleagues asked for solutions rather than statistics.
In the 2012 Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males, Florida was ranked 47 for the black male graduation rate. In the state of Florida, there are more black males incarcerated than in higher education. According to Nelson, half of the budget of the department of corrections goes to black males.
The goal is to increase black male achievement in educational and behavioral culture. According to the SEC overview, the project aims to "provide children, families and social service providers with engagement strategies and activities within the communities, which the children reside. These strategies will include non-traditional engagement methods to assist children with understanding the importance of personal and educational success and achievement."
"We want to try to catch them early, before they get into middle and high school. Mentorship throughout all levels of school is important but there is a need to drill down very early," Nelson said.
Each school will have eight to 10 mentors. Each mentor will guide no more than three kids. The overview projects the entire program will ultimately serve "150 high-risk delinquency and dependency-involved children." The premise is finding black males that have overcome obstacles such as single parent families, crime and poverty-stricken areas and matriculation through underperforming schools. These black males who have overcome these obstacles and made it to higher education will give the kids someone to model. The mentors are a broad range of students that come from various backgrounds that will help expose the kids to different disciplines. Some of the mentors are majoring in engineering, education, criminal justice, pharmacy and political science.
Nelson said, "Kids that come from underprivileged communities tend to look up to role models that are drug dealers and gang bangers. They don't see teachers or pharmacists as role models. These mentors will give them someone they can emulate as opposed to what they see in everyday life."
Having a mentor at an early age is something that Dr. John Johnson, an Edward Waters College SEC researcher, said he would have wanted as a kid.
"I would love to have had mentors like these in my youth. Not only is the program beneficial for the mentees involved, the program is beneficial for the mentor too; it enables their leadership skills while supporting these kids."
The purpose of the project is for these kids to make it out of unfortunate circumstances. Nelson said beyond the main purpose, he would like to see the kids go back to help someone else who was in a similar position.
All HBCUs in Florida are now involved with the project. Nelson believes more HBCUs should have similar programs. "It's my goal to do it nationally," he said.
Junior Gadgee, a Florida Memorial University SEC coordinator, agrees that the program should expand. He said, "Different environments will give you different types of children. Children in Miami, Gainesville and Jacksonville will be different. We should be able to expand and get into more elementary schools to stop the at-risk youth at a young age."
Previously working for the Black Male College Explorers program, Gadgee said he knows for a fact that mentoring programs are effective. He said over time, he could really see the impact on the kids and the changes within them.
Nelson believes the growth starts in HBCUs' own backyards. He said, "Every HBCU has had a low-performing school in proximity of the campus. Most HBCUs are located in underprivileged areas. Ninety-nine percent of low performing "˜F' schools are in black communities."
In the future, Nelson said he looks forward to seeing a change in grades, behavior and attendance in school for these at-risk youth. He truly believes exposing them to higher education shows these troubled youth that they can achieve with support and encouragement.
Nelson declared, "It's a matter of teaching these kids how to navigate and succeed in spite of."
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