Tuesday, July 22, 2008

College of Education’s DREAMS Institute Mentors Local High School Teens

Georgia has one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the nation, according to a national survey released last month by Editorial Projects in Education.

To provide a safety net for at-risk students, the College of Education’s Alonzo A. Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence hosts the annual DREAMS Institute. The mentorship program is designed to engage African-American male and female teens in activities that develop social competency, self-understanding and career aspirations.

This month, about 90 teens from the New Schools at Carver, Daniel M. Therrell and Tri-Cities high schools will be on-campus and linked with Georgia State undergraduate and graduate students, who serve as program facilitators and mentors.

“A lot of these teens haven’t thought about themselves as college students and we want to expose them to that idea through relationships with college students and interactions in the college environment,” said Lawanda Cummings, a graduate student and one of the DREAMS coordinators.

Some of the programs at the institute are gender-specific. Male teens will have an opportunity to hear a hip-hop artist and a professional athlete talk about their respective industries and ask questions about what are realistic career goals. Female students will attend workshops on body image, sexual health, self-confidence and self-identity. All teens will go on confidence-building field trips, such as white water rafting and indoor rock climbing.

Facilitators say the DREAMS (Developing Relationships Empower African-American Mentee Success) Institute makes a noticeable difference in teens.

“You see the student who had an attitude at first open up and start sharing, and the shy, reserved student makes friends,” said Kelly Newsome, a recent Georgia State graduate who has been a mentor in the DREAMS program for three years. “And those students who were only interested in finishing up high school are now applying to college. It’s wonderful.”

The mentoring intervention program extends beyond the DREAMS summer institute into the school year with monthly group meetings and activities for the young people. Future plans for the project include research aimed at investigating resilience, academic expectations and achievement, self-esteem and cultural heritage awareness.

“We let them know that excellence is expected from them and they should expect it from themselves too,” said Susan McClendon, Crim Center associate director. McClendon and assistant professor Miles Irving also mentor the undergraduates and graduate students who facilitate the program.

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