The National Pan-Hellenic Council at Mississippi State University created a new mentorship program with Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary School.
The Henderson Ward Mentoring Program has 33 third and fourth graders paired with 33 mentors who spend two days per week meeting with the students.
Michayla Mack, president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., mentors with the program and said the students they assist have math, reading or behavioral issues.
"They don’t really have positive role models outside of school," Mack, a junior psychology major, said. "That’s where we kind of come in to help give them a positive role model. We help them with some work, have fun, if anything’s going on at home, they can talk to me."
One of the weekly meetings is a one-on-one session with the student and mentor, and the other is a group meeting with all of the students and mentors.
Eric Lucas, president of NPHC and director and founder of the program, spoke on what happens in the group meetings.
"If some kids need to make up work, they do," said Lucas, a junior biomedical engineering major. "But, for the most part, we have fun. We let them let loose a little bit and show them we’re not all sticklers."
Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary School is 75 percent African-American, Lucas said. He said it is important the students have role models with whom they can relate.
"The reason why NPHC took this initiative first off is because there’s honestly a lack of positive influential African-American role models," Lucas said. "Henderson Ward reached out to us trying to confront that issue."
Mack echoed this and stressed the importance role models have on a student's success.
"It’s more important that they see that people like you are being successful as well," Mack said. "Sometimes you see people on TV and they might not look like you. It’s important for them to see, ‘Hey, this girl looks like me and she’s being successful in college, maybe I can go to college, too.’"
Jarrius Carter, a mentor with the program and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., said he learns a lot from his mentee.
"The biggest thing I’ve learned from these kids is it takes a lot of patience," said Carter, a junior communication major. "You have to be patient with people, they’re not adults."
Mack also said she learns from mentoring.
"We don’t always realize that other people are going through things as well, or that other people don’t have all the privileges that we have," Mack said. "It makes me appreciate more the background that I had growing up and the support systems I had, because a lot of those kids don’t have that."
Lucas also spoke on how a student’s background may affect their ability to trust.
"That’s our challenge going in," Lucas, who is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., said. "When you come from a rough background, a lot of students have trouble trusting our mentors."
Lucas said the program’s one-on-one mentoring is designed to help build trust.
"Just the one-on-one interaction with these kids and having a positive message that they’re hearing faces the challenge head-on," Lucas said. "Just showing your commitment tears down that barrier of not having trust."
Lucas said this program gives the students the attention they deserve.
"The overall goal, honestly, is just to change a kid’s life," Lucas said.
Mack said the mentors also benefit from the program.
"It does my heart good to see their warm faces, and they’re always sad when it’s time for us to go," Mack said. "It’s a win-win for both of us."