Seventh-grade pupil Deanté Gibbons has his eye on the prize: high school graduation.
Deanté knows he must stay in school and become something greater than his fears. A shy, 12-year-old breaking out of his shell, Deanté is determined not to become an alcoholic or addict.
“I think of someone who doesn’t believe in himself and is a quitter,” the pupil said when asked about people who drop out of high school.
Inspiring Deanté to believe and never quit is a goal shared by the pupil and his mentor at the W.T. Johnson Boys and Girls Club on the back side of Cherry Tree Crossing. Deanté’s mentor, Jeremy McCoy, is keeping track of his academic progress and leadership development as part of a program targeting young people most at risk of dropping out.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of the CSRA is entering the third of a four-year program called Be Great: Graduate.
Mentors paired with pupils in grades five through eight evaluate the pupils weekly for school attendance, behavior and course failure, said Brittany Dixon, the compliance specialist for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the CSRA.
Pupils in the program qualify if they live in a single-parent household, come from a low socioeconomic background, fail reading or math, or have a disability. Pupils must meet just one of the requirements, Dixon said.
Deanté, who attends Collins Kindergarten Through Eighth Grade School, has no problems with absenteeism, and he scores mostly A’s and B’s, McCoy said. Mentoring has focused on developing leadership skills.
“At this age, character and leadership are the groundwork these children need,” said McCoy, a lead teacher at the club.
McCoy has helped Deanté progress from a general member to the vice president of Torch Club, a leadership group within the Boys and Girls Club. On Thursday, they reviewed the club’s meeting agenda and Deanté’s responsibilities.
McCoy and Deanté meet daily for a 15-minute one-on-one session to review his school day. Deanté also becomes McCoy’s helper when setting up projects and assignments for younger pupils. The program requires only a weekly meeting.
McCoy was a high school dropout himself. He remembers working a temporary job at age 19 and his employer saying he wouldn’t be hired full time because he lacked a high school diploma. McCoy eventually earned his GED, associate and bachelor’s degree. He plans to get a master’s in social psychology.
The tracking requirement of Be Great: Graduate helps McCoy recognize areas that need greater attention. McCoy, who mentors four other pupils, knows Deanté must improve his social studies grade. Another pupil has a school attendance problem, and a third has behavioral and attitude issues.
“You can see where their weaknesses are and where their strengths are,” McCoy said.
Pupils at four Augusta area clubs are participating in Be Great: Graduate.
“The vision is that every child is promoted every year to the next grade level,” Dixon said. “They graduate from high school and they are fully prepared to achieve real world success.”