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Massena Central Starting 'My Brothers Keeper' Mentor Program For Male Native Students


The Massena school district is starting a mentoring program for male Native American students through a federal program called “My Brother’s Keeper.”

Stephanie Allen, the district’s curriculum director, told the Board of Education on May 3 that the Obama-era program is designed “to eliminate opportunity gaps and achievement gaps we’re seeing with male students of color.”

“At Massena, that would be our Native students,” she said, but added that the Trump administration is no longer funding it. “So we don’t have as long as we would like.”

The program will take a group of seven students in grades 10 to 12 and help them mentor younger male Native students in grades 5 to 9 under the guidance of Jodele Hammock, who has been assigned as program coordinator.

She said the older students chose to be referred to as “Brother Bears” when taking on their mentor roles.

“I didn’t know how to refer to this group ... when we’re talking to the press or writing our grant. I asked them what do you want us to call you? ... They chose to be the ‘Brother Bears,’” Allen said at the school board meeting.

She said they sign a document committing themselves to their roles as Brother Bears.

“We ask them to sign a commitment to the grant, to the work they’re going to be doing,” Allen said. “This is all of them taking this initiative to do that.”

One school board member questioned why the program requires taxpayer money.

“What does it go towards? They couldn’t do this without the grant?” said Trustee Jason Premo.

“Advancement in understanding, the awareness of culture, of sharing. For vendors to come in, for speakers to come in, we have to pay with that. They will be journaling, they will be videoconferencing with fourth grade,” Allen replied. “They’re also going to be reading in elementary buildings, so we have to purchase books ... and a coordinator.

“They have to do career development, they have to go down to Syracuse, it’s a requirement of the grant.”

She said she hopes they are someday able to extend the program to the entire student body.

“It is our hope to expand this with time, and involve not only men of color, but all men and women at Massena Central,” she told the board.


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