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College, Secondary School Students Forge Lasting Relationships Through JU Class

Ryan Benk

Thursday, at-risk Duval County students graduated from a mentorship program at Jacksonville University.

For four years, the program’s mission has been erasing stereotypes in the minds of college students by having them mentor young people.

But, the program has also created lasting relationships.

Around 30 students from JU and public schools are reuniting one last time before the end of the semester at the college.

JU professor Shelley Grant makes it a requirement in her media and crime course for students to mentor a child with low grades, behavioral issues or problems at home.

“These JU students spend about one hour a week with students in the Arlington area and we see tremendous differences,” Grant says.

One of Grant’s students is senior Dolphins basketball player Kori Babineaux.

“I guess I went into it thinking maybe he would be a little more rough around the edges because the word ‘mentoring,’ you’re thinking maybe this is somebody who really is kind of in a tough spot in their life,” Babineaux says. “But it really was just getting to hang out with Andrew an hour every Friday.”

Babineaux says, although the semester’s over, he thinks he’ll continue his relationship with the seventh grader.

Credit Ryan Benk / WJCT News
A group of mentors and Duval Public School students greet each other Thursday to celebrate the lasting friendship they've created through JU's mentorship program.

That kind of follow-up wasn’t something Grant expected when she started the program.

What’s more? Babineaux’s mentee says he has a new plan for his future.

“I learned that I really probably want to go to JU and do the same thing that he did for me,” Andrew says.

The mentorships are arranged through the Communities in Schools program, and Case Management Director Dane Gilbert says mentees have a 94 percent graduation rate.