Tau Lambda Lambda mentors have boots on the ground to help students thrive
Isaiah Austin was the last one to finish the challenge.
He stood for several minutes with his eyebrows wrinkled, poised as if he were contemplating quantum physics.
With the help of Monique Wilson, director of the James E. Richmond Science Center at St. Charles High School, Isaiah finally wrote, “I’m charismatic.
Isaiah, 14, is beginning his fourth year as a mentee in the Purple Boot Mentoring Program, and was participating at the mentoring kickoff meeting in a get-to-know-you exercise where the mentees shared something interesting about themselves. Otis Harvey, the PBMP coordinator, led the activity recently during the recent kickoff in Waldorf.
“It’s teaching the boys to be engaged,” he said. “We’re not here to just preach but to build relationships.”
Created in 2009, the program is Tau Lambda Lambda chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity’s mentoring program for young boys.
The mission of the program is to educate, empower and employ young African-American and Latino boys in Southern Maryland to take ownership of their destiny while becoming stronger role models within their homes, neighborhoods, and institutions of learning, according to a news release from the
Bernard Jackson, serving as the Purple Boot Mentoring Program chairman for the second year, said he is excited for the new program year.
“This year we will be using the fraternity’s four cardinal principles of manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift to set the foundation for many of the program’s mentoring lessons.”
He added that the recent domestic violence-related issues involving professional football players made it a great time to continue the discussion on what real manhood is and how men should treat women.
Felecia Lowe has had her son, Kyan, 9, involved with the mentoring program for four years.
She said the family has remained with the program because of her agreement with the core values.
“This year the program is more interactive,”Lowe said. “I see the boys are helping more to make it a success for themselves.”
She added that many times the parents act like they’ve won the lottery when they get the opportunity to interview for the mentoring program.
“It’s a great uplift and haven for our African-American students,” Wilson said.
In addition to the life-skills mentoring, the program also has a science, technology, engineering and math — STEM — component, which is led by Jackson and coaches Michael Fowlkes and Wilson Ennis.
In April, the mentoring program’s first year with the STEM emphasis, the group sent two robotics teams, Robo-Bots and Reckless-Robot, to compete in the annual College of Southern Maryland LEGO Robotics Championship.
The Reckless-Robot team included students Nathaniel Humphrey, Jason Richardson, Dexter Gilliard and Devon Wright.
The Robo-Bots team included students Zachary Fox, Mike Fowlkes Jr., Devin Cunningham and Jeremiah Vaughn.
Both teams placed in the top 20 out of the more than 75 schools competing and the Robo-Bots team also won the top programmer award.
“That was a huge accomplishment being that it was our first year of competition,” Jackson added.
“It was my first time doing something like that,” Isaiah said of the robotics competition. “It was my best part of last year.”
Jackie Bowen, Isaiah’s mother, is looking forward to more success with the program this year.
She said the interaction her son has with other boys as well as the mentors has been beneficial.
“I’m a single parent and his interactions with his dad are sporadic at times,” she said. “Having this interaction with a positive group of men is great.”
Jackson’s mind is on growth of the program.
“We have space for about 10 more mentees but the families must be dedicated,” he said.
He also added that the community could support by sponsoring sessions or activities for the group.
“As we do more, we’ll make greater impacts on the boys,” Jackson said. “We want to demonstrate to them the benefit of hard work and also how to relax and have fun.”
“I don’t know what it’s like without them [mentors],” Isaiah said. “But with them, it shows who I can grow to be. I’m living off of what they show me.”