Shouts, praises, and laughter permeate in Benton Harbor Charter School Academy on Fridays. Why? On Fridays, a select group of students participates in new, innovative mentoring programs aimed at developing community in the school.
These groups are called BowTie Boys and Sister2Sister.
“The goal of these programs is to empower youth through discovery and discussion of history, culture, social problems, and the political forces surrounding them,” said Tim Harris, principal at Benton Harbor Charter School Academy and founder of BowTie Boys and supporter of Sister2Sister.
The Sister2Sister mentoring group is comprised of 10 students. The girls engage in activities designed to raise their self-esteem and equip them with the skills and support necessary to overcome social barriers and obstacles that they may face in today’s’ society.
Staff members and sisters, Sharnae and Denisha Hudson lead this group. Growing up in Benton Harbor, they know how important it is to have a strong role model and mentors in their lives. That is why they are committed to helping the girls in any way that they are able.
“I can empathize with what these girls are going through and want to provide opportunities to help them succeed and hopefully go to college,” Sharnae Hudson commented. “They are our future and we want them to know that they can make a difference in the world. It is our goal that they learn what gifts they have to impact others.”
The ten female students who are members of the mentoring program love their experience so far.
“My favorite thing about this program is that we have each other’s backs. We are a sisterhood,” said Zaryiona an eighth-grader who is part of the Sistah2Sister program at Benton Harbor Charter School Academy.
The program allows the school to build relationships with the students and learn what they need to be successful in and out of school.
“We encourage the girls to be where they are and to engage in the moment,” said Denisha Hudson. “By providing resources and options outside of what they know, we want to show the girls that they can be successful if they choose wisely.”
Tim Harris leads the BowTie Boys group. He started the BowTie Boys mentoring group after he saw a need for young men to thrive.
“We want to teach and promote responsibility, reinforce positive behavior and develop character in adolescent males for leadership roles in their community. By doing these things, we create a learning environment for career and college-ready students,” Harris said.
Both Emire and Da’Shawn, are students who are part of BowTie Boys, have positive things to say about the program and how it has been helpful.
“Mr. Harris really helps us think about our future and how important it is to make good choices,” commented Emire. “We learn about how the choices we make today impact decisions in the future.”
Both mentoring programs will continue to flourish at Benton Harbor Charter School Academy. Students are gaining the skills to be better equipped for the choices that they make. They can also create new friendships and trust among classmates that will hopefully last a lifetime.