A concept from a historic civil rights activist has inspired a group of students to reach out to local youth through a new mentoring program, the program’s coordinator said.
Jamarri Aikins, a junior psychology major, said that W.E.B. Du Bois’ idea that if one in 10 black men becomes a leader then he can institute social change motivated him to start the Talented Tenth Mentoring Program.
Aikins said he started the program to provide positive male influences for young boys in the Fort Worth community. The program will work with 13 black students from W.C. Stripling Middle School who have a history of academic and behavioral problems, Aikins said.
Suzy Dowdy, the guidance counselor at Stripling Middle School, said most of the students who will be working with the program lack the social skills needed to be able to control their actions in public settings.
“These kids need a role model to show them what public behavior is,” Dowdy said. “I think having this mentor will solve a lot of behavioral problems.”
Aikins said the two sides will get together for study sessions, one-on-one conversations, and group discussions on a variety of topics, like the importance of heritage, problem solving and long-term goals. He said many of these children don’t have someone to teach them those valuable lessons.
“A lot of these kids don’t have a male figure in their life,” Aikins said. “It would be good for them to have somebody they can look up to and teach them about these issues.”
Along with being a positive influence, Aikins said the Talented Tenth members want to show their “mentees” that it is possible for black males to obtain a quality education, regardless of their background.
“A bunch of these kids don’t really aspire to be educated,” Aikins said. “We mentors want to show them that we’re just alike and we’re getting our education.”
Cameron Green, a freshman music education major who is also participating in the program, said that many of the kids believe they will be looked down on by their peers if they excel in school.
“We’re trying to show them that it’s OK to strive and do well in the classroom,” Green said. “I want to reach back into the community and let them know that college is a possibility.”
Dowdy said the program will also show the boys the advantages of getting an education beyond high school.
“It will give them their first real introduction to college,” Dowdy said. “I think it will encourage them to go to college.”
Both Green and Aikins said it is important to develop these young men into future leaders who will eventually make positive contributions to society.
“We’re trying to find that group of men that will rise up and help lead the community,” Green said.