Centre mentorship program impacts lives of local high school students
An innovative collaboration between Danville High School and Centre College students lead to the creation of Centre of Danville’s Attention (CDA) this semester. And with additional support from Matt Klooster, director of community service and the Bonner Program, CDA is set to continue as a valuable resource aiding local, at-risk high school women.
“Danville High School science teacher Mark Mojesky and Pathways coach Vaughn Little observed that many of the female students of color in the high school were not focused on their academics and, instead, were beginning to compromise their success and future by developing destructive habits,” Klooster explains. “Mr. Mojesky and Mr. Little reached out to the women of Centre College to begin a mentorship program to show these high school students that a focus on academics and healthy habits can lead to very positive outcomes.”
According to Klooster, senior Tyhgita Cespedes was an instrumental leader in recruiting Centre student participants, as well as organizing planning meetings to get the program off the ground and operational. They met at least once a week during the spring term to plan a curriculum and to discuss the effectiveness of their mentorship efforts.
“Mr. Mojesky and Mr. Little saw young freshmen and sophomore ladies who were in need of leadership and meaningful relationships that would encourage them to strive toward higher achievement,” Cespedes says. “As a senior Centre Posse Scholar, I was excited to get involved.”
First-year student Kelly Tran, who is set to assume a leadership role in CDA when it resumes in the fall, is confident that their mentorship will be a positive influence for the high school students.
“Centre’s emphasis on ‘do your best, be your best, no regrets,’ has driven us to inspire these students to know that they have so many opportunities, regardless of their current situation,” Tran says. “We intend to help guide them by giving hope and providing the necessary tools and skills to reach any goals they create for themselves.”
Sophomore Sam Cook is also set to take a leadership role in CDA. She has seen first-hand the struggles that some of these young students face and feels that Centre has given her the tools she needs to make a real difference.
“As someone who has had the privilege of working in Danville High School as an assistant volleyball coach, I not only knew a couple of the girls in the CDA program but have a direct connection to other resources within the school,” Cook says. “On a basic level, I am familiar with the situations and issues that these women face on a daily basis within the school.
“As a student of President Roush’s Rainmaking CentreTerm class, I have been able to gain an arsenal of assorted tools and strategies to use when it comes to leadership and making an impact for good, and for that I am also grateful,” Cook adds.
And while their goal is to inspire the young high school women to make positive decisions in their own lives, the Centre women are also being inspired by them.
“Serving these young ladies at the local high school has enriched my Centre experience, and my experience is not unique,” Cespedes says. “Just ask any one of the Centre students who mentored a young lady at DHS. These girls are growing to be integral parts of the Danville community, and we have made goals to achieve success and give back to our community together. This is what has made this first trial run of CDA so worthwhile.
“Also, I have personally been able to use what I have learned in developmental psychology to help lead this initiative and mentor an amazing young lady at DHS,” Cespedes continues. “Simultaneously, I have learned a lot about development in adolescence through my experience with the program, which has helped me learn through community-based service, leadership and outreach how psychology concepts may be applied to real life.”
Cook also connected in a meaningful way.
“The end goal of CDA is not only to foster meaningful and inspirational relationships between the mentor/mentee pairs,” she explains, “but also to motivate these women to finish high school, go to college, and achieve things that they never believed they could, because they have somebody alongside cheering for them the whole way.”
As Cook, Tran, and Taylor Walker-Smith ’18 prepare to lead CDA in the fall, they’re already making plans for enhancing their efforts.
“We hope to facilitate the girls’ ability to be on campus and come to on-campus events, such as convocations or club-sponsored philanthropy events,” Cook says. “I believe that if we expose these women to a world of academics beyond the walls of the high school, they will begin to grasp the value of study and post-high school education as well as find different niches and interests that would motivate them to pursue new dreams in new fields.”
In addition to Klooster, Mark Addison (community service coordinator), Carrie Frey (head of reference and instruction) and Pam Baughman (director of admission operations) were all key in making this program a success.
“It is important to never underestimate the power and inspiration that comes from showing others that you believe in their gifts and abilities,” Klooster says. “Through a system of college-aged students of similar race and ethnicity modeling a constructive and personally gratifying approach to life, it is quite possible that the Danville High School students will be inspired and allow their gifts to truly shine.”
by Cindy Long
May 22, 2015
Pictured above (clockwise, from far left): Abby Zaman ’17, Dzeneta Velic ’18, Taylor Walker-Smith ’18, Nikki Stumpp ’18, Amariah Ritchie ’18, Amaryst Parks ’18, Sam Cook ’17, Kelly Tran ’18, Tyhgita Cespedes ’15