After a nearly two-year-long hiatus courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic, the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) student mentorship program is back, and in person. Once per week, fifth-grade students at Kenneth L. Rutherford Elementary School meet with MBK “fellows”, who are Monticello High School students.
The My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) program is a nation-wide initiative launched in 2014 by President Obama to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by young men of color, and ensure that all youth are able to reach their full potential. The Monticello Central School District joined the MBK program in 2017 and over the years, has built up a comprehensive program that provides students with after-school activities, opportunities for personal and professional development, community events, field trips and more.
The mentorship program partners high school students with elementary school students once per week after school to help the students to build a stronger sense of connectedness to peers, teachers and the greater community. The fellows take on a “big brother” role, offering support and guidance to their younger peers.
“The high schoolers are more relatable to the younger students,” Shannon Daniel, who works with the MBK students, said. “It’s a different dynamic that helps the kids come out of their shells – it’s rewarding to watch that growth.”
On Friday, Feb. 11, Ms. Daniel opened up the mentor session by giving each group – comprised of two or three fifth-graders and led by a high school fellow – an inspirational quote. The groups then discussed the meaning of the quote and how it applies to their daily lives.
The group led by MBK Fellow Donovan received the quote, “watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” After reflecting on the quote and discussing it with the younger students he summed up their interpretation and read it aloud to the entire class.
“Your thoughts become your reality,” he read. “You can become anything you want in life; the choices that you make will define your destiny.”
After the quote discussions, Ms. Daniel then led the group in a getting-to-know-you activity called “what’s on your plate?” where students had the opportunity to illustrate the activities, responsibilities and other things that fill up their time.
The mentorship program is entering its fourth year, and some of the fellows have been participating since its inception. They’re excited to get back into the game.
“I became a mentor in ninth grade,” said MBK Fellow Collen. “I enjoy making a difference. Through the years, MBK has given me a community and the opportunity to interact with kids.”
The MBK program is continuing to grow, with new activities and partnerships planned for the upcoming months. Members of the MBK team, including Director of Equity Tiffany Hall and Executive Director of Special, Summer and After-School Programs, Dana Taylor have been recruiting students during lunch periods at Robert J. Kaiser Middle School and Monticello High School.
“It helps kids build character,” added MBK Fellow Devante. “It helped keep me grounded and focused on the future. I hope that these kids will become mentors themselves one day.”