Temple Junior Nuri Bracey shows a student at the U School how to tie a necktie during our monthly man-up discussion.
Founded during the 2015-2016 school year, DonCARES of Philadelphia is the vision of Temple University Senior and Education Major Donovan Forrest. Students of color at DonCARES of Philadelphia serve as mentors to High School Students at the U School, an innovative high school in North Philadelphia.
DonCARES of Philadelphia pairs students of color at Temple University with African-American students at the U School at 7th and Norris Streets in North Philadelphia.
Founder Donovan Forrest, an aspiring high school teacher and author of two books, says the program grew out of his passion for mentoring and his experiences as a former "at-risk" youth. "Growing up in North Philadelphia, a lot of our youth are susceptible to negative stereotypes, negative influences, and lack of positive role-models. When we connect our "at-risk" students with caring and consistent college mentors, that's when change can manifest." Forrest says.
In our low-resourced schools and neighborhoods, the people who represent higher education, and academic success matter.
When students see their mentors are twenty-something-year-old college students of color, their perspective of what can be achieved can change.
Lucius Smart, 22, a senior from North Philadelphia for one year has been mentoring Solomon Gay, 17, an 11th grader at the U School.
"I just came from visiting Solomon," Smart tells Forrest most days when the two run into each other on Temple's campus. "He's doing well." Smart, a computer science major, says he was drawn to the program when DonCARES of Philadelphia advertised during the 2016-2017 school year that they were recruiting mentors.
Smart who didn't have a mentor growing up believes he can be the mentor he never had. Since being matched with Solomon in September 2017, Forrest says that Lucius has been the most dedicated mentor to Solomon.
Brittani Canty, 21, a senior at Temple University, and a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority Inc., mentors Katiana Geiger, 18.
Brittani's great!" Katiana exclaims. Since the two were matched in September 2017, the two have grown to become sisters. Katiana is a soon to be high school graduate who has shown persistence in the educational pursuits of her diploma.
"That is the exact mission of our organization." DonCARES Founder says after seeing the two develop an edifying relationship. "We desire for our students to maintain lasting relationships with their mentors."
Since their founding in September 2015, DonCARES of Philadelphia has served youth all over North Philadelphia. From their early days as after-school tutors at Strawberry Mansion Learning Center, DonCARES has held partnerships with Trizen LLC, Penn Law, and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity., Incorporated just to name a few.
DonCARES of Philadelphia matches college students of color with high school students at the U School in North Philadelphia on a weekly basis. College student mentors commit two to three hours a week for the entire school year to spend with their mentee.
Mentors can spend this time talking with students about their dreams, tutoring them in their academics, or touring Temple University during their lunch periods.
For the 2018-2019 School year, DonCARES President Donovan Forrest hopes to implement more hands-on programming such as coding workshops and cooking classes.
"I believe our youth deserve the best and should have equal access to our educational services. I am excited to see what programs we will introduce to our students at the U School and Kensington High School in the Fall. With a community of caring and consistent individuals, there is no telling what you can accomplish." Forrest says.
DonCARES of Philadelphia in September 2017.
Photo Credit: Brandon C. Ballard/ Last Photo Courtesy of Crystal Anokam
Major: I am currently studying finance at Temple University
Hometown: Newtown, PA
What is your favorite quote?
"Formal education will help you make a living, self-education will help you make a fortune"
How long have you been an active member of DonCARES?
Since September 2017 (Officially)
What advice do you have for new mentors?
Put in the best effort you can with your mentee, it is not easy work. There will be ups and downs with your mentor, but persistence is key.
What do you like most about DonCARES?
I like interacting with all of the young minds at the U School. Not just my mentor but with those around him.
What is your proudest moment at DonCARES?
Offering advice and conversing with students about the importance of a financial future and stimulating their minds to invest sooner rather than later.
What has being in a mentoring relationship taught you about yourself?
I've learned that being in a mentoring relationship is something that has to be dealt with carefully. Not as in walking on eggshells so to speak, but showing your mentee that you care for them and want them to do well. So, in other words, it showed me how to transfer my compassion and carefulness to another person.
On Friday, May 4th, DonCARES of Philadelphia and the ladies of Womin (in) Honour held a panel discussion for female students at the U School in North Philadelphia. The name of the panel discussion was Hidden Figures. The purpose of the panel discussion was for millennial women of color in the North Philadelphia community to share their stories of perseverance and achievement in male-dominated spaces. DonCARES of Philadelphia Founder Donovan Forrest was hoping the conversation would equip U School students with the tools neccessary to navigate potential spaces that are chockful of micro and macro-aggressions towards women of color. Among the Hidden Figures Panelists were Brianna Morales, Kaya Jones, Tierra Jones, Chynna Wilson, and Nagiarry Porcena-Meneus. The panel discussion was moderated by Talaya Pollard a member of Womin in Honour.
Among the Hidden Figures panelist were five phenomenal women. The first panelist was Nagiarry Porcena Meneus. Nagiarry is a Temple University Student and community activist in North Philadelphia. Ms. Porcena Meneus is also a founding member of People of Color Environmental Club. Also on the panel was Chynna Wilson. Mrs. Wilson is a retired Navy Veteran who served a tour in Afghanistan.
Chynna shared her story as a mechanic who tended to trucks to make sure they ran properly. She also recalled her grandfather telling her that because of who she is and the color of her skin she is going to have to work 110%.
After posting the event on her Instagram page. A tenth-grade student commented: "Amazing having you at our school."
"Amazing having you at our school."
Mrs. Wilson responded that she would love to stay updated with any of the student's goals and accomplishments. The student responded that she would keep her updated.
Also on the panel was Ms. Tierra Jones. Ms. Jones is a former Medical Auditor and the Founder and Director of ATTRACT Philly. ATTRACT Philly (http://attractphilly.org/) is a 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is to empower the youth while promoting the importance of education through no-cost cultural, health and outreach activities.
While on the panel Ms. Jones talked about the importance of having a mentor. "I wish I would've had someone like me while I was in high school. I would've started my business back then." Tierra talked about the importance of being strong-willed despite what others will say about you or one's capabilities as a woman.
Also, on the panel was Kaya Jones a former mentor at DonCARES (www.doncaresphila.org), a current Temple University Student and a parliament member of Temple University's Student Government. While on student government, Kaya helped pass a resolution for inclusive women-only spaces on campus.
Brianna Morales a Sophomore at Temple University and a graduate of Central High School in Philadelphia discussed her reasons for pursuing a career as a social worker. "Many people think because I'm a woman, they expect me to go into social services. Because you are supposed to have a lot of passion and emotion towards your field." Ms. Morales stated that her reason for pursuing work in social services stemmed from a personal life event and that she has a deep passion for the law.
Hidden Figures is a panel discussion that will return to the U School in September.
The mission is to shed light on the contributions of black and brown women in male-dominated institutions and workforces. DonCARES of Philadelphia Founder and President Donovan Forrest believes in the empowerment of young girls of color. "It's our duty as male community activists to provide these spaces for our women. We need to share the stories that are too often pushed under the rug. It's unfortunate that women of color are not yet regarded as equal despite them being the highest educated group in the world."
Also, in attendance was Damontay Fowler-Thomas, the Curator of Project Pledge Philly https://www.gofundme.com/project-pledge-philadelphia. Project Pledge is a recently founded initiative whose goal is to provide elementary school students with book bags and school supplies in Southwest, Philadelphia.
Mr. Fowler Thomas who is also a rising senior at Temple University will serve as the Director of Local and Community Affairs for Temple Student Government. After the program, Damontay told Forrest of his reaction to the program. "It was weird not having a voice during this program," Damontay said. "Yeah, it's time for women to have their voices heard," Forrest responded.
Both Forrest and Thomas are regular supporters of Womin (in) Honour and the Temple University Section of the National Council of Negro Women. Both men agreed on the importance of providing spaces for women to speak, be believed, and inspire youth. After such a successful program, the two community activists are grateful and excited for more empowerment events in the future.
(Some of the attendees and panelists after the Hidden Figures Discussion)