Chris Hart-Williams | Editor-in-chief
On a typical day, a student might drop by the African American Cultural Center, walk through the Free Expression Tunnel , and most important of all, sit in a classroom. Last week, 10 students did that and more with 36 fourth and fifth graders. Joshua Moore, a senior studying sustainable materials and technology, co-lead a student mentor day with Breanna Powell, a junior studying social work.
Moore, Powell and the other mentors hosted boys from Barwell Road Renaissance Elementary School in Raleigh. “When I was in elementary school I already knew I was going to go to college,” said Powell. “I didn’t know much about it, but I knew I was going to go.”
Powell said that she hopes the visit made an impact on the boys, especially those who may not talk often about college at home. Some of them were able to attend class with their mentors, while others took part in tours of the D.H. Hill Library Learning Commons, Carmichael Gymnasium and Talley Student Center.
“They were really excited to be on N.C. State’s campus,” said Teyara Hudson, a senior in social work, who served as one of the 10 student mentors. “They kept saying ‘you guys are so lucky, I wish I could do this,’ I told them you can, just keep your work up in school.”
The fourth and fifth grade boys belong to a separate mentor program at their school that is lead by male faculty, the Helping Hands Mentoring Program. This is an initiative of Wake County Public Schools that works to foster supportive relationships, improve school performance, and help “statistical minorities” face and overcome challenges in their lives.
Robert Bridges, an African-American and former Wake County School Superintendent, started the program within a few schools in the system 25 years ago. This year marks the fourth year Barwell Elementary has offered it.
“The program provides students with enrichment to help them go to the next level academically,” said Marc Hardy, a mentor of the Helping Hands program at Barwell Elementary and school counselor. Hardy, an NC State graduate, says the program is culturally sensitive and aims to increase its participants self-concept and self-esteem.
The mentors engage with the students- after homework time, which comes first, said Hardy. Circle-time, which often follows, is what Hardy describes as “an opportunity for the boys to open up.” Hardy said he and his colleagues like to mentor using generative themes which comes from the writings of Paulo Freire in his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed which stresses that solutions to a people’s challenges are best found from within their culture and community.
The program at Barwell creates a sense of community for the boys pays respect and appreciation for an Afrocentric worldview according to Hardy. He received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from N.C. State. Hardy holds an undergraduate degree in psychology, which he earned in 1992, and a master’s in counselor education, which he earned in 2010.
“For them to get to see the students, I think that was the most important part,” Powell said. “Just so they know that there are people here ready to support them and advocate for them when they go to college.” Powell said she wants to go into school social work and serve youth after college. She’s interested in youth development and hopes to be an advocate for children, like she had while in elementary, middle and high school. “I just want to be that person for other students.”