Friday, June 9, 2017

Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate Graduation

Photo courtesy of Trevor Holman
Eleven Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate seniors celebrated their upcoming CHCCS graduations, and their completion of eight years in the program, on Sunday afternoon, June 4 at Carrboro High School. They had all attended previous celebrations, watching older siblings and friends deliver remarks and thanks, and finally their turns had arrived. They thanked their families, coaches, and Blue Ribbon staff, and they thanked their mentors. Each student left the stage with an oversized replica of a scholarship check, ready to move on toward a wide range of post-graduate goals; mentors and family members received bouquets of flowers.
The ceremony marked the 15th graduation celebration, although Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate has served CHCCS students of color since 1995. The program integrates mentoring, advocacy, leadership development, tutoring, social and cultural enrichment and postsecondary scholarships and has been internationally acclaimed for its intervention model based in social work and educational theories. Above all, BRMA is a strengths-based program, one that celebrates the limitless potential of its children and young people. Currently 138 students participate in Blue Ribbon. Over 95% of program graduates enroll in some form of postsecondary education.
Photo courtesy of Trevor Holman
This year’s graduates are Joanna Salazar-Martinez, Priscah Oluoch, Akin Dunston, Kareem Patillo, Ana “Gabby” Dimate, Isiah Edwards, Marcus Edwards, Kenneth Motley, Jr., Tia Wade, Brian Kendall and Mujahid Turner; they’ve earned nearly $30,000 in scholarships. Each student received a Sponsor-A-Scholar award that applies to all kinds of postsecondary education, and represents donations from more than 200 community supporters. Funding for university or college is provided by the Haidt Family Foundation Scholarships. Haidt Scholars are required to attend a four-year college or university.         
The ceremony also honored the first Caroline Lindsay Student Advocate Scholar, Hsar Ree Ree Wei, given to a Blue Ribbon Youth Leadership Institute student who is committed to fostering human rights. The late Caroline Lindsay was a former mentor and long time friend of BRMA who “was not afraid to use her voice for the advancement of others.” The scholarship was created by her family as a tribute to her lifelong dedication to civils rights, especially those of children and women.
Mehki Dallas-Johnson, a 7th grader at Phillips Middle School, gave the opening welcome for the event. Each participant spoke from the stage, before their families and mentors joined them under the spotlights. Gabby Dimate, in her speech thanked her mother “for being an immense light in my life…” and her Papi, “for blessing me with an American education.” She, like others, offered advice to the younger BRMA students in the audience, “Don’t fixate on a number. There’s no better way to silence the haters than to succeed.”
Marcus Edwards told the younger students, “Be unique, be yourself, someone who stands out.” He acknowledged that “life can be stressful. Once I learned about taxes, Whew!” But even in the face of challenges, he counseled, “Be and do something that changes lives. Be that rock for somebody else.”
Mujahid Turner said, “I have discovered a passion to be a leader, whether in the classroom, on the football field or taking care of my three sisters. Never stop dreaming. Find whatever it is that makes you come alive.”
After the seniors were honored, nearly 90 students from 4th to 12th grade received certificates for academic achievement this year. Granvel Johnson, New Match Support Specialist, teamed with his 9th grade mentee, Kyrin Dallas and fellow East student, Mauricio Nunez-Jimenez to make a lively pitch for the benefits of mentoring. Granvel noted that each year between 20 and 30 students are unable to join Blue Ribbon because there are never enough mentors to match with the students who are nominated.

Over the years, these eleven seniors of 2017 have joined in countless service projects, summer enrichment camps, and alternative spring break trips to New Orleans and Washington, DC as well as to Spain and France. The current high school BRMA and Youth Leadership Institute students have already begun fundraising for a trip to Italy during spring break 2018.
Paul Lindsay, who organized the scholarship in his late wife’s honor, wrote in an email to Blue Ribbon, “To listen to the seniors who spoke is to realize how much you have accomplished in the lives of these young people, and how much they will take with them into the future.  It was an honor and privilege to be part of this celebration of so many good things with so many good people.”