Major: Communication Studies
Year: Rising Junior
Hometown: Bridgeport, Connecticut
What is your favorite quote?
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” (Alice Walker)
How long have you been a member of DonCARES of Philadelphia?
A little over a year.
What advice do you have for prospective mentors?
Upon meeting with your mentee, take the time to listen to what they have to say and how they feel in regards to anything, whether it be school, or any relative situation that they are experiencing. Try to use your own experiences and things that you’ve learned along the way and throughout college to share with them in hopes of creating a genuine impact.
What do you like most about DonCARES?
I like that DonCARES is made up of a lot of like-minded individuals that are interested in the same goal of positively impacting youth. I enjoy being able to provide good examples and positive representations (of color) for the children, as well.
What is your proudest moment at DonCARES?
One of my proudest moments at DonCARES was receiving the mentor of the month award. Another proud moment was the first SALT talks event at the U School; although it was a small group, it was great to see the students engaging and their receptiveness to what we had to share as a group and with our own individual experiences.
What has being in a mentoring relationship taught you about yourself?
Being in a mentoring relationship has taught me more about the importance of being a good listener and maintaining a positive yet realistic mentality. It has also made me more grateful for the opportunities that I have had.
As of May 2018, DonCARES of Philadelphia announced their newest partnership with GEAR UP at Kensington High School in North Philadelphia.
DonCARES of Philadelphia a mentoring start-up started by Temple University Senior Education Major Donovan Forrest. DonCARES provides free mentoring and tutoring services to students at the U School in North Philadelphia.
GEAR UP is a program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs is the full name for the acronym. GEAR UP provides critical and early college awareness and support activities like tutoring, mentoring, and academic preparation to improve college access to students from low-income, minority, and first-generation students and their families.
Started during the 2016-2017 school year, DonCARES of Philadelphia faced many difficulties but Forrest and his founding team persisted. "If you would like to imagine, starting a mentoring organization is not an easy feat. You not only need to lay the foundation but you need to make sure all of your I's are dotted and your T's are crossed while you're doing it." Forrest says.
It was when DonCARES of Philadelphia Treasurer Elias Nejame mentioned that the group of college students could partner with the high school where he was a teacher that programming began to show signs of promise. The high school was Neil Geyette's relatively new high school The U School at 7th and Norris Streets. This was in September 2016.
However, there weren't officially boots on the ground until January 2017 when DonCARES of Philadelphia provided the U School with six tutors who were college students of color. "We were consistent and that's when our name began to circle around the North Philadelphia community," Forrest says proudly.
In regards to their latest partnership with GEAR UP, the words Forrest believes strongly in is: "Social Entrepreneurship." "You have to network, you have to believe whatever you are doing matters," Forrest remarks.
DonCARES teamed up with NCNW Temple Section and S.M.O.O.T.H Inc. for resume workshops at the U School in March and April 2018. When a video of Forrest demonstrating a proper interview got a record-breaking nearly 100 likes on Instagram and Linkedin, Briayanna Johnson who was then a GEAR UP Coach reached out to Forrest to conduct a workshop at Kensington High School.
Later that month, Briayanna introduced Forrest to Ana Ramirez who was the College and Career Coordinator at Kensington after he mentioned a possible partnership between the two organizations. After their second resume workshop at Kensington, Forrest, Johnson, and Ramirez held a meeting where the organizations discussed programming for the 2018-2019 school year.
DonCARES will partner with GEAR UP and work with 9th and 10th graders at Kensington High School in the Fall. Getting them prepared for college and their careers are something both organization's members are passionate about. "When we equip them with the tools to be successful we have something to be happy about. And we are excited to already to have started doing that." Forrest says.
On Friday, May 11th, DonCARES of Philadelphia celebrated the end of another successful year of mentoring with our third millennial speaker's series event. Among our panelists were Sam Brown, Deana Young, Travis T. Wolfe. Janae Rockemore, Carine Dorlus, Shawn Aelong, and Khadijah Fofana. The purpose of our discussion was to inspire students at the U School through our stories of perseverance and accomplishment. DonCARES Founder Donovan Forrest was hoping that U School Student and speakers would be open to starting a mentoring relationship.
Each panelist brought something unique to the table. Sam Brown is a graduate of Millersville University and a motivation speaker.
While at Millersville University, Sam served as the President of the Black Student Union. Sam's mantra "Faith and Effort" is what he uses to reach inspire others his dreams. Originally from North Philadelphia, Sam currently resides in Coatesville where he is involved with mentoring youth in the Coatesville Youth Initiative.
Travis T. Wolfe and Shawn Aelong inspired U School students with their testimony. Shawn told those in the room to continue countering the false perceptions made against them as people of color by working hard and continuing their education.
Shawn is a student at Temple's Fox School of Business and a disability rights activist. "I had a teacher, who told me I wasn't going to be anything but someone who could sweep floors. Now, I'm a keynote speaker and a future attorney."
Aelong said. Shawn currently serves on the Police Advisory Board, has been a keynote speaker on various occasions and is studying business at Temple University.
Travis T. Wolfe is the CEO of WolfEmpowerment Group. WolfEmpowerment Group is a group consisting of Travis, his wife, and three children. As a motivational speaker, Travis tells his story of hardship to that of a champion. "I was abused, in foster care, homeless, and at one-point was in a life-threatening predicament. However, luckily, I was given the opportunity to change my life around and I took it." Travis now lives in Los Angeles with his wife, son, and daughters who are heavily involved in film production.
Also in attendance was Carine Dorlus, the Founder of Philly 4 Haiti. Philly 4 Haiti is a non-profit organization whose primary goal is to provide agency and education to build partnerships with other cause driven-organizations, colleges, and universities, in an effort to provide communities in Haiti with essential, educational, economic, and health resources.
Khadijah Fofana, a current student at Temple University and the CEO of Avantika Hijabs was in also in attendance.
When her business was referred to as "The best thing coming from Southwest Philadelphia" by DonCARES of Philadelphia Founder Donovan Forrest, Fofana responded. "Yassssss."
At the end of the program, Deana and Janae Rockemore who refers to herself as an effervescent woman with an ardency for education, the arts, and advocacy for the youth talked with a student at the U School who was finding her passions in life. Deana Mitchell is an educator and gospel singer whose music is available on Apple Music.
Photos Couretesy of Brandon C. Ballard