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| May 28, 2010

What mentors are made of: From left, Holsey Moorman, a member of the Palm Coast City Council; Jim Guines, former member of the Flagler County School Board and founder of the African American Mentor Program; John Winston, president of the program; and Bill Delbrugge, Flagler's first black superintendent, who enacted the program three years ago. (© FlaglerLive)

Three years ago Jim Guines, the former Flagler County School Board member, proposed to Superintendent Bill Delbrugge setting up a mentoring program for black boys. Men in the community who know something about responsibility (educators, businessmen, cops and others) would be paired with students who were not doing well in school, students with disciplinary issues, students from single-parent homes with no men as role models.

Jim Guines on Founding the Mentoring Program–and Being mentored
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They would be mentored, seriously and persistently. It wouldn’t be about taking the boys to ballgames and having ice cream once in a while, though that could happen too. It would be about getting serious: learning right choices, developing a sense of ethics and personal discipline, or as Calvin Grant put it tonight, not playing the victim to one’s environment, but taking charge of it.

Delbrugge, Flagler County’s first black superintendent (he calls Guines “my pops”), went for it, as he’s done with any idea that has a chance of improving students’ success. That success was on display tonight at the Government Services Building in Bunnell, where the school board has its home. The program, now headed by John Winston, held its end-of-year banquet to celebrate 54 boys’ achievements and honor the 30 mentors who’ve guided them along. (See a list of the mentors in the first table below, and a list of the mentored students who received awards, in the second table.)

Bill Delbrugge’s Welcome
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“One thing I have found out in dealing with young people: they don’t really care about what we as adults think. They want to know whether we care. And that means everything. And if we care, then we can give the very best that we have,” Winston said, closing the evening. “I can’t thank you enough for Bill Delbrugge who’s leaving us. He has been on that hill that I look for every time I’ve tried to make something happen, and I say, how are we going to do this, and he’s always been there. He’s been our lifeline, he’s been our support, and I want to wish him well as he leaves the United States to go and build schools of excellence in another corner of the world. I know that he can and I know that he will.”

Referring to the new superintendent, Winston added: “Janet Valentine now takes over, and Janet, I’m going to be knowing on your door, constantly and deliberately, because one thing we’ve found, Janet and Bill, the mentorship programs wherever they apply have worked over and over and over again. They’re taking young men out of jails and out of despair and out of heartache and pain all over this world. This group of young men you see here, on fair testing, from the time we got them until now, have exceeded by 26 percent. You can’t tell me that’s failure. On fair testing, they’ve done quite well, but we have much more work ahead.”

Rashawn Burk's moment: That's Bill Delbrugge and Sandra Stubs taking a picture of Burks and Linda Longo of Flagler schools, with John Winston looking on. (© FlaglerLive)

Here’s how Rashawn Burks, a 17-year-old at Flagler Palm Coast High School and one of the stars of the evening, described his involvement in the program: “It means a lot because it helps a lot of people based on, like me, because a lot of people don’t get this kind of help. It’s encouragement. A lot of us—I’m in a foster home, and it’s like, life is discouraging at times, and they build you up, and they work you. They work you. The only thing they expect is your best.”

Earlier, Calvin Grant, the keynote speaker, still in uniform from his job as a school deputy with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, talked of his own experience growing up poor in northern Florida, going to school at Flagler High School when whites didn’t want blacks there, of a brother and friends running afoul of the law, and of what he described his 90-10 formula: “10 percent of things you cannot control.” But the rest is up to one’s own decisions.

Calvin Grant’s Keynote Speech
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Without couching his words in niceties or euphemisms, he told his audience, mentors and mentored alike, he said: “I stayed humble, followed all the rules, dealt with racism, because all I needed my teachers for at that time? Where to sit, what chapter are we on, and what’s my homework assignment. After doing all those things the right way, I go away to the military for 20 long years, and I vowed that I hate the soil where every tree grows on in Flagler County. I said if I made it out of Flagler County, I would never return. After getting married and raising my family it’s ironic that all four of my children have graduated from Flagler Palm Coast High School.”

His classmates, Grant said, had “sold drugs, beat up people, dropped out in 10th, 11th grade.” And now he was, as fate would have it, back in Flagler County, despite his earlier vows, looking for work. “The same people that I would have offended was now in charge. I was able, after returning after 20 years, walk right in, got here on a Wednesday, was working on a Monday. The people that did all those other things are still unemployed. Your resume is at the school you attend. Your resume is at the community you live in.”

Delbrugge had introduced Grant by saying that “He lives up to the important thing, and that is, humankind: it’s not two separate words. It’s one for a reason. You have to have both.” Grant showed it in his words and his insistence to the boys in front of him that “you must have self discipline. I live for the day that they put that definition on your FCAT testing. Simply because self-discipline is the ability to do what’s right when no one else is looking.”

The chamber where the School Board, the County Commission and the Bunnell City Commission, among other boards, have their meetings, was about two-thirds full with mentors, mentored boys and some of their parents. Winston, after spending 30 minutes handing out recognitions and awards to the men and boys, personalizing every award from a seemingly bottomless well of memories and individual touches, had strong words of his own: “I just want to say this before we leave: I’m upset, to be very frank with you, that not enough parents decided to be here tonight. We work very hard at trying to help these young men. To turn them around. To get into their heads and make them know there’s a better way for you. School is about education, and if you’re not in the business of education, you have no business in school.”

It was then that briefly shifted gears, thanked Delbrugge and told Valentine of his coming knocks at her door, before returning to his disappointment: “You parents, please, talk to the other parents. We need you. You’re our backbone. We can’t do it without you. Look in this room. There’s less than a handful of you here. There’s something seriously wrong with that. I won’t give up on that. There’s going to be a change and we’re going to demand that we work with the parents from now on.”

The greatest re-generation. (© FlaglerLive)

The Mentors

Willard AndersonRaymond HoustonSam Rivers
Ray BoylanDamien JohnsonMike Robinson
Terrence CulverRalph LightfootWalter Sarden
Robert DumasJoe MatthewsWilliam Seeney
Marc DwyerArthur McLaurinStacy Simpson
Anthony FeltonSam MerrillKeith Smith
Bob GaryHolsey MoormanChester Traham
Calvin GrantAndrea ParhamDavid Vigo
Jim GriffinAdolphe ParkerJohn Winston
Allen HarrellHervin RattrayJohn Wright

Award Recipients

Flagler Palm Coast High School
Antuan BarberoErno DavidTerrance Louis
DeShawn BarberoFerrell FurgersonShaquille Lynch
Jimmie BelleWillie GardnerMarvin Masse
Marc BradburySh'kai HerbertKelechi Needham
Isaiah BrownJulious JacksonShakir Terry
Rashawn BurkesChris KellamDequan Williams
Immanuel DesRiviereKentrail Kenner
Joas Louis-CharlesJerry Lee
Matanzas High School
Quacy BeeromAaron FlemmingsClayvon Poteat
Gerald BentleyJames Habersham Matthew Richards
Hakeem BrooksTyrique HarperTyler Swire
Tyshon BrownRobert D. JohnsonTibyras Santana
Carlos CarloMarquese Jones
Richard DuckworthJazzpen Leonard
Jaron Robinson
Buddy Taylor Middle School
Santiago DenovaAlred ShaversElijah Hancock
Chauncey McCrayDavid BascoeDeonta Pittman
Eric FelderXavier JenkinsDaiquan Smith
Arlis BlountErnest Hart
Indian Trails Middle School
Kyron BattleKristopher McCallDamon Smith
Anthony DensonImari OxendineTyrone Walker
D"Shawn HosangJohathan OxendineDaniel Wright
Belle Terre Elementary
Isaiah CunninghamMichael LawrenceJoshua Ortiz
Bunnell Elementary
Corey Vandyke

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6 Responses for “Mentors”

  1. Jim Guines says:

    This is a great story and I am very happy and proud to have had a hand in the beginning of this program. I do want to make it clear that John Winston has provided the real leadership for this program and really has made a difference in the lives of these young people and the school system. The other important leadership role was played by Bill Delbrugge. This community is fortunate to have had him as its superintendent and I was fortunate to have served on the board with him. I call him the Magic Man because he made so many good things happen in this school system. This is a good school system for any and all kids who attend it. They have been all of Bill’s students. Seldom has a superintendent of schools made such an impact in such a shortime on so many lives, an impact which will last for generations to come. So long Bill. POPS

  2. J.J. Graham says:

    Just had to put a face to a name. You Sir I admire. My uncle Bill Dwyer is a retired princeple living in Narcossee. He was a civil rights activist back in the day and has many stories that I still love to listen to. I also can call on him for his wise counsel when when it comes to how to better myself as a role model and teacher. Recently the kids in my summer K.A.R.E. program decided that the late night gnomes who come in and work very hard to make sure their clay sculptures are structurely sound have been wrongfully overworked. They have all vowed to work harder so as not to continue enslaving the gnomes. Currenttly they are building them boats so they can escape in the middle of the night. All this inspired by to bright young twins sisters who thought the whole idea of the gnomes slaving away all night was inhumane. They are currenttly writing a book to comemarate this great unfolding chapter in the gnomes lives. I had been using the gnomes for years. I guess the lesson to me is that not even imaginary things deserve to be enslaved. Look forward to meeting you sir.

  3. fatimah says:

    My name is Fatimah Shabazz , I was searching the web for advice on starting a successful youth mentoring program, for at risk African American and Latina women in my community.. homestead fl, any advice would be helpful.
    thank you.

  4. Jim Guines says:

    Meet me tommorrow at the Pine Cone Contry Club at what used to be the Pine Lakes Country at about 11:30 and I will buy you lunch at the Rotary Club and give you help. The Rotary Club meets there every Tuesday from 12 noon to about 1:00pm.. Just ask for Jim Guines,

  5. Antoinette says:

    As a strong advocate of mentoring, I wanted to take a moment to leave a reply to your post. First, I express my heartfelt honor and respect to each of the mentors who are involved in this prestigious program. Our young African American or Black males can gain so much from a program such as yours. Understanding that they will be mentored by someone – be it a street gang or someone positive such as yourselves. Life is all about first being helped (the example) and afterwards giving back to others (planting future seed). The best vehicle for this process is the age old mentoring process. ‘Mentoring’ is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Thank you for caring.

  6. m. smith- taylor says:

    do you offer mentoring for men ages 24-29?
    Please reply by return-URGENT! Or call me on; 954 665 0650
    M. Taylor

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