He may be ailing, but he’s not done: Jim Guines, the former Flagler County School Board member also known as Smokin’ Jim for his once-roving barbecue pit, and still known, with his wife LaVerne Guines, as mentors (to the young and not so young) and providers of innumerable and lucrative scholarships to college-bound students, was honored Monday evening at the annual banquet of the African American Mentor Program, which he helped found five years ago.
Former Superintendent Bill Delbrugge and Guines discussed starting a black or minority male mentor program years ago because black males were the lowest performers in the county on the FCAT, the standardized Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test. “And I said we have to do something about that,” Guines said when speaking of the program’s origins in an interview two years ago. The program would be modeled after a national program called 100 Black Men, which has some 116 chapters and mentors 125,000 boys and girls annually. Guines and Delbrugge in 2007 held a meeting with about 40 black men, many of them leaders in the county. And the program was born.
Jim Guines Speaks of the Mentor Program in a 2010 Interview[media id=49 width=250 height=100]
Guines got emotional when he took the microphone to speak after receiving Founder’s Award Monday evening. “I was proud of what they did,” he said. “What we have here is a coming together of the community, that’s what we all got to appreciate and be proud of. Not any one person or any ego, but it is true that I gave Bill Delbrugge this idea and he authorized it.” Guines
“It was emotional because Jim did initiate it, and the way that he spoke, in an emotional way, I think a lot of people felt it,” LaVerne Guines said. “If it hadn’t been for him talking to Bill I don’t know if it would have happened.” The ceremony took place at Indian Trails Middle School.
Guines, who celebrated his 80th birthday in February, was Flagler County’s first black school board member, a position he held nearly 13 years. He’s been recovering from a stroke and other complications since just before Christmas, making occasional public appearances along the way. (Guines is a member of the FlaglerLive board of directors.)
The mentor program is not intended to be playful. The students picked for the program need help: strong role models, discipline, purpose. Mentors are their guide and anchor, not their pal. The students (colloquially called “mentees”) can be challenging. Mentors sometimes find themselves baling them out of trouble minor and major and having to set them straight again: the students wouldn’t be in the program otherwise. But mentors also watch their students grow and conquer various obstacles, not least of which making it to graduation and beyond.
“AAMP has helped me a lot with life and my education,” Kristopher McCall told WNZF Monday evening. “Since 6th grade, I was kind of on the downfall, behavior-wise and education-wise, nearly failing, and then I met my mentor Ray Houston, who just got me back on the right track where, now leading up to the day I have a 3.0 in high school, so I’m doing pretty well. If it wasn’t for the mentor program I would not be where I am today.”
The program graduated 15 seniors this year, “seven of whom had been termed that they’d never even make it through high school,” John Winston, the program’s chairman, said. (See the full list of mentors and their students on the second page of the program below.)
Guines, Winston said, “has done a yeoman’s job through the years of supporting all the young people, black, white, blue, green, whatever. he has just always been on the forefront of helping students and developing them into the kind of people that will make successful citizens. We are just so proud of Dr. Guines and what Dr. Guines has achieved in his lifetime. Unfortunately ill health has him where he is today, but we just want him to know that he is an outstanding human being, one this community should hold in high esteem, because he’s truly been a stalwart member, not only of the community, but of all the people here in Flagler County.”
The program is broadening out into middle and elementary schools, where it had had a limited presence so far. There will be a particular focus on 4th, 5th and 6th grade, with teams of mentors going into the schools to work with students, Winston said.
As has become a habit in Flagler County, though more particularly in Bunnell than in other governments, the prohibition against mixing a publicly sponsored event with religion was flouted at the beginning and the end of the program, with a distinctly Christian “invocation and blessing” at the beginning and a “benediction” at the end, though Superintendent Janet Valentine’s name and the district’s logo emblazoned the program as sponsors.