JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County Schools launched a project last year called "5000 Role Models of Excellence" and Tuesday the program took another step forward.
Young men are matched up with mentors in Jacksonville and they commit to making good choices and achieving greatness.
The plan is to take 500 students throughout 10 Duval middle and high schools, with 500 mentors within the span of 10 years. That will total out to 5,000 role models.
Tuesday night brought celebration and a plan to set the course for "5000 Role Models of Excellence." at Ribault Senior High School as new members were inducted in a ceremony.
"It is a program where students who are deemed to be at risk for various reasons decide to be leaders. So it becomes a leadership development program," Lawrence Hills, district supervisor of 5000 Role Models of Excellence, said.
They wore white shirts and signature red ties representing power, and the commitment of these young people. Twenty-five students returned from the previous year and 25 new members embraced the challenge to change their destiny.
"It just inspired me to be a better leader. I knew I wanted to do something in high school, but I didn't really know my place. And the 5,000 role models of excellence got me to that place," said John Douglas, with 5000 Role Models of Excellence.
"Tonight, what you were going to see is 25 students being inducted into this program and the biggest cheerleaders for these kids are going to be the students that came in it last year. So it is student-led in the leaders that we had that were in this program last year are going to make sure that this program is a huge success in the future." Hills said.
The program focuses on developing young men of color. Hope and excellence are hallmarks of what students can learn from their adult mentors.
"Now it helps me because I know I need to be a leader to the people under me. So like the ninth-,10th- and 11th-graders that we have that are getting inducted, they look up to me. Knowing they look up to me, it helps me stay on track with grades, leadership with school and everything else," Keon Hudson, president of 5000 Role Models of Excellence, said.
One of the tangible results from the project is already showing: 13 students have been accepted into a college or university as a first-generation college student. And since they enrolled in the project, grade-point averages have gone from 1.71 to 2.51 -- that's a 32 percent increase in the first year of the effort.