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A hand up for at-risk students
Mentoring coalition reaches out to West Charlotte High School
 
Published Tuesday, August 24, 2010 12:14 am
by Michaela L. Duckett, For The Charlotte Post

PHOTO/JOHN EASTON
Bishop Claude Alexander of The Park Ministries makes a point during a press briefing to annunce the West Charlotte Mentoring Coalition at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. The coalition aims to help freshmen with mentoring and tutoring support.

At West Charlotte High School, where more than 75 percent of students come from economically disadvantaged households, nearly half of the freshman class will drop out before graduating.

Mayor Anthony Foxx, a West Charlotte grad, said that many of the 1,700 students there simply need someone positive to look up to.

“Young people can be successful, but they have to see examples of success,” he said.

Elected officials, members of the faith community, business leaders and community groups from Charlotte’s west corridor recently announced the West Charlotte Mentoring Coalition, a collaborative effort to eliminate the drop out rate by providing mentoring and tutoring support for ninth graders at West Charlotte High School.

West Charlotte Principal Shelton Jeffries said the graduation rate at his school is a serious concern. He believes the work of the coalition will be powerful in reversing those trends by positively influencing the lives of young people.

“Mentorship is the tool by which we build and will have a significant impact in increasing the graduation rate,” he said. “By engaging community stakeholders we have our opportunity toward that end. The power and symbolism of this initiative is enormous.”

Research conducted by Strayer University identified the presence of a strong male role model as one of many key success factors that increase the likelihood of successful life outcomes among African American youth.

City Council member David Howard credits much of his success to a personal relationship with a mentor who took him under his wing as a freshman at West Charlotte.

Howard is now giving back by participating in the program, and he calling on others to do the same.

“There are more David Howards out there that need to be mentored to,” he said. “What we are doing is calling on the community as a whole to get behind this program.”

Mentors for the project will be recruited through the coalition’s network of churches, businesses and professional organizations. Mentors will make a one-year commitment and be screened through the established CMS volunteer screening process.

Tutoring will be provided through the church coalition network at facilities where structured programs already exist.

This year’s goal is to link all incoming freshman at West Charlotte with a mentor.

Although the program is being launched at West Charlotte, organizers hope that it will serve as a model that will be duplicated across the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School district.

“I’ve seen where mentors have made a real difference in people’s lives,” said businessman Ron Leeper who was instrumental in laying the foundation for the project.

Leeper said no one achieves anything on their own.

“It’s been because we have stood on other people’s shoulders,” he said. “Other people have paved the way for us, and we have an obligation to really reach back.”

Leeper wants members of the community, particularly the 20,000 members of the faith-based community along the Beatties Ford Road corridor, to do their part in making the community stronger.

“They are our community’s kids and we have an obligation and responsibility to help them achieve their goals, as somebody has helped us,” he said.

Johnson C. Smith University and several churches including Friendship Missionary Baptist Church and the Park Ministries have already pledged their commitment and support to the coalition.

“We must reach out and stand with these young people, for they are our responsibility. They belong to us,” said the Rev. Y. Trevor Beauford of Friendship Missionary Baptist. “We have to reach our arms around them to let them know… they are loved and supported.”

To learn more about the West Charlotte Mentoring Coalition or receive information on getting involved or beginning a similar program in your community, call (980) 343-6060 extension 408.

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