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