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Mentors spread priceless influence

Heritage Leadership Camp mentors Rashad Norris, Ray Lawrence, Roger Freeman, Ron Walker, Tony Moore and Jerry McClain. - Aileen Charleston/The Mirror
Heritage Leadership Camp mentors Rashad Norris, Ray Lawrence, Roger Freeman, Ron Walker, Tony Moore and Jerry McClain.
— image credit: Aileen Charleston/The Mirror

By AILEEN CHARLESTON, The Mirror

What began as a conversation about empowering middle school male minority students to meet academic standards has turned into a yearly ritual.

For three years, leaders throughout the community, with support from the Federal Way School District and Communities in Schools, have given life to the Heritage Leadership Camp. These leaders volunteer to inspire and motivate students of color in grades six through eight to excel in their everyday life, high school and beyond.

“Students that were showing an interest in having role models that they could identify with and receive that extra support and mentoring were the ones selected for his program,” said Trise Moore, Family Partnership Advocate.

The program consists of three full-day leadership camp sessions spread throughout the school year. A total of 60 students are divided into four groups led by two mentors each. Students are taught subjects such as conflict resolution, team building, goal setting and communication.

The popularity of the program has earned the Federal Way School District recognition from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

A video called “Successful Schools: Families Matter,” created by the Center for Improvement of Student Learning and OSPI, highlights the Heritage Leadership Camp as one of the three most promising family and community partnership programs in Washington state.

Leaders from every professional area take off three days of the year to serve as mentors to students who need to reach their leadership potentials.

Every mentor organizes classroom activities that consist of interactive exercises where students explore hands-on steps to becoming successful leaders.

Heritage Leadership Camp mentor Jerry McClain’s group focused on teaching students how to tie a tie, due to the tie’s representation of leadership in the business world.

“We have to teach our kids that they can’t be a victim of circumstances, and lead by example,” McClain said.

Mentors pick one day throughout the semester to surprise students by visiting them during lunch. They talk about goals the students have made and how those goals have been applied.

The volunteer mentors recognize that they were able to accomplish their goals partly because of people who guided them through the path of success. In turn, these men wish to set the same example for younger generations.

Eartha Wallace, a mother of an eighth-grader who has attended the camp since the sixth grade, donated money from her own pocket in order to buy plaques for the mentors as a sign of gratitude for all their work.

“What these men do for our children is priceless,” Wallace said. “You can only see the results of this.”

Frederick Smallwood, an eighth-grader at Totem Middle School, said that he has learned how to gain and give respect since he’s been in the program, but the most important thing he has learned is how to control himself.

“I got to where I am in my life because of the people along the way who directed and encouraged me,” camp mentor Roger Freeman said.

These kids can’t get there unless they get the support they need, and when kids are successful the community is successful, Freeman said.

Contact Aileen Charleston: acharleston@fedwaymirror.com.

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