The Remington Boys & Girls Club on Guion Place in New Rochelle hosted last month an unusual gathering of public school administrators and staff, church leaders and community leaders. Over 100 people came together to learn more about the New Rochelle High School Mentoring Program. The presentation inspired about 40 people to sign up as mentors.
After some brief remarks by Tina Mitchell, the Remington Club Activities Director, Quay Watkins the Executive Director of the New Rochelle Boys & Girls Club and an Invocation by Pastor Mott of the Family Christian Center, staff and administrators from New Rochelle High School addressed the group about a program developed 8 years ago to reach out to students who were falling through the cracks and support them with one-on-one intervention.
Dr. Jessica Dorsett, a counselor at New Rochelle High School, explained how the NRHS Mentoring Program began, provided and an overview and a vision for the future. Dorsett said the program began several years ago when some at the high school concluded that minority students not achieving at the rate they should, particularly the boys, and that nothing was being done. The consensus grew that "we have to do something"
That something was a pilot program modeled on a small learning community -- 16 boys, both black and latino. Adult mentors were both male and female. Of those students all 16 graduated -- 10 graduated on time, 3 graduated after the summer session, three graduated later including one who graduated after six years. The program which has grown to well over 100 students shows that it takes a village to inspire, to explore, to show what is possible, Dorsett said.
Dr. Deborah Gomez, a school psychologist at New Rochelle High School, outlined the many NRHS Mentoring Program Activities. Gomez talked about college tours, volunteerhip and student ambassador programs and others. The purpose of these program is to give participating students a great sense of the wider world. The program guide provided a complete list to which Gomez referred as she spoke.
The New Rochelle High School Mentoring Program
Howard University Visit (October 2010)
2ns Annual Hope Kitchen Food Drive (2010 Holiday Season)
Quarterly Speakers Bureau (2010-11 Academic Year)
4th Annual Cherish Retreat (January 2011)
Mentor Professional Development (Spring 2011)
4th Annual Young Men's Retreat (Spring 2011)
Spring College Visit
2nd Annual Poetry Jam (Spring 2011)
End of the Year Recognition Dinner
Dr. Monica Tippet, a House Principal at New Rochelle High School, provided data on graduation rates that was, to be polite, unhelpful and a topic Talk of the Sound will cover in a separate article. Suffice to say Tippet expressed dissatisfaction with the graduation rates of minority students and expressed a desire to "close the gap".
Vera Cheek, a New Rochelle House Principal, spoke about "The Mentoring Charge". Cheek noted the phenomenal resources at New Rochelle High School but recognized that there are students the school does not reach that they want to reach. The problems have been compounded, she said, by the recession which has created an environment where students are great stress and bringing that stress to school, increasing the issues for students of every background.
Cheek talked about reaching out for support from various organizations and added "all of us are believers, church people" and "not afraid to say we are turning to the church" for help.
The role of mentor, she continued, consisted of committing to communicating with a child once a week. The high school would provide the venue and all parents had already signed off on their child being in the mentoring program.
During the Q&A Cheek added a dose of realism to the discussion noting that not all of the students were attractive candidates and that mentors needed to understand that the more the profanity the deeper the wound. Not all kids will be successful, she added but 80% ultimately made it through with either a diploma or GED.
Closing Remarks were delivered by Laurie Collins-Thomas, a teacher at the high school.
Collins-Thomas spoke about the 50th Anniversary of the Taylor case and put the need to mentor children today in the context of a broader struggle to advance opportunities for minorities in the United States over the past 50 years.
"Each of you has the power to help one child", she said.
If you are interested to be a mentor, recommend a high school student for mentoring or support the program contact Vera Cheek at 914-576-4530
[Editor's Note: This meeting was held on November 16th but the story was one of many held up when the site was locked down and later upgraded. Talk of the Sound is getting around to several stories like this one as part of an effort to catch up on a backlog created by the site overhaul.]