Growing up to become thriving, productive and engaged adults is not easy for youth. It never has been. But, in today’s world it maybe even harder with crime, violence and other negative distractions constantly showing in real time, as well as on “breaking news” and social media.
Dealing with distractions and trying to cope with daily challenges can put teens at-risk for poor health, delinquency, antisocial behaviors, and academic failure.
To avoid such actions, boys can be recommended to the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a dropout prevention and mentoring program committed to achievement. It is designed to guide minority male students grades K-12 along a carefully chartered path. Ultimately, the goal is for them to attend college or seek other post-secondary credentials in order to increase employability in high skilled jobs with higher wages within high demand industries.
An ambitious undertaking, the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project was founded in 1993 by native Miamian U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a former teacher, principal, Miami-Dade School Board member and state legislator. As a principal she was inspired by the impact of positive male influence on the attitudes and performance of the boys in her school.
According to the Miami-Dade Schools website, 5000rolemodels.dadeschools.net, the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project serves approximately 8,000 students in 105 schools. It has been expanded to schools in Broward, Duval and Pinellas counties. There are over 6,000 volunteers.
To gain insight into its 25-year history, I invited several participants to summarize their credentials and thoughts stating any impact the program made on their lives. Here are excerpts from their responses:
▪ Jefferson Noel graduated from North Miami Beach Senior High School in 2012 and Florida International University in 2017.
“The 5000 Role Models Program transforms marginalized boys into reputable men. I am proud to say I am a university graduate, author, orator, and entrepreneur because of the incredible men that paved the way for me. The mentors provided guidance, resources, and motivation to help me pursue success.”
▪ Jonathan J. Moses graduated from Miami Carol City in 2010 and Florida A&M University in 2015; traveled abroad to 16 countries; worked in the Florida House and Senate and interned with Wilson in Washington, D.C. He is an intergovernmental liaison in the Office of the Mayor of Miami-Dade County.
“I was empowered and taught that I had an obligation to fulfill my God given potential to uplift my family and community. The leadership skills and lessons in manhood I gained from the program have guided me through my educational and professional life. It also birthed a passion in me to find solutions to the challenges we face through public policy and community service.”
▪ Abraham Thomas retired in 1994 from Miami-Dade County as a social service supervisor. A minister, published author, songwriter and singer, he has been sharing his talents with the 5000 Role Models program for nearly 25 years.
“I grew up without a father and it was not easy. I wonder what I might have been able to accomplish with the guidance and support of a father. After nearly three decades participating as a mentor brings value to my life. All of the pioneer mentors should be recognized, too.”
▪ George Ray participated in the program at Lake Stevens Middle School then graduated from South Dade Senior in 2001. He has a bachelor's degree in public administration from Talladega College, MBA from Florida International University, and professional certification in franchise management from Georgetown University. He is an entrepreneur and business consultant.
“I am living proof that the 5000 Role Models for Excellence Program works. Over 20 years ago, I was a street hustling, juvenile delinquent with little direction. Through the program, I became surrounded by positive male role models who provided positive examples of black men with families. Education is the passport to a better future. Essentially, Congresswoman Wilson is the modern-day Harriet Tubman: Through education she is giving young black and Hispanic boys a path to freedom. Today, I am engaged to be married. I look forward to being a great husband, father and provider like many of the role models who mentored me in the program. Last but not least, I am a proud sponsor of this year's MLK Breakfast.”
Dorothy Jenkins Fields, PhD, is a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida Inc. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2018 25th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast for the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Foundation presents producer, director and actor Tyler Perry as the keynote speaker on Monday at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, 711 NW 72nd Ave. in Miami.