James Madison University

NEW COLLEGES FORMED A plan to reorganize the College of Integrated Science and Technology into two colleges took effect July 1, 2012. The new colleges are the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and the College of Integrated Science and Engineering.

READ MORE »

Purple and Gold Connection

By: Megan Williams
Posted: November 4, 2009

Waynesboro High School and James Madison University have a connection. For one, both schools’ colors are purple and gold. But the real connection is in a mentoring program started this year by Professors Deaton, of ISAT, and Bryson of the social work department.

The Purple and Gold Connection began this fall as a way for social work students at JMU to mentor high school students in Waynesboro. Fourteen high school sophomores who have potential to continue their education after high school meet with fourteen JMU students who provide them with guidance and support. The vision of the program is to continue with these students until they graduate high school and then choose a new group of sophomores.

“We’re not trying to have the students be teachers to the students. But we are trying to have them be a friend and role model and show them possibilities for their lives,” Deaton said. “We have a group of students who have said ‘We’ll just walk along their sides this year, we’ll be their friend, we’ll do things with them.’”

At the beginning of the semester the JMU mentors had a six-hour training session in Waynesboro to familiarize themselves with the area, which is about 35 miles from Harrisonburg, and to prepare them for situations that may arise during their mentorship and how to discuss difficult topics with their students.

The JMU students have also had to go through background checks, and driving checks before they can meet with their high school student one-on-one. Until the checks are complete students have been meeting in Waynesboro with their mentees in groups.

Although JMU students and professors run the program, Deaton and Bryson want it to be a Waynesboro program that Harrisonburg helps assist with.

One of the goals of the program, besides gaining a friend, is for the Waynesboro students to realize their academic potential and to consider their options for the future. As high school sophomores the question of college is just becoming an issue, and the mentors are there to guide them through the process.

“These students have very diverse backgrounds but I think they’re all motivated and really want to do something with their lives,” Deaton said.

Like most adolescents, Bryson said, these students have different social issues they are dealing with, whether it is economic struggles, family issues, or issues of fitting in.

“We want these kids to feel like they’re not out there on their own struggling,” Bryson said. “We want them to feel a sense of belonging. We want them to feel belonged to us.”

Besides the mentorship, the Purple and Gold Connection also has a social learning component where the students and their mentors attend workshops, also hosted by social work students. The topics of these workshops include career building, life skills, social skills, time management, and making a good first impression.

The workshops, combined with the one-on-one time with the high school students, help to create a holistic approach to mentoring.

“The idea is that they’ll get this,” Deaton said of the workshops, “and the mentors will kind of reinforce those things along the way.”

JMU senior, Brittany Farlow, sees herself as a friend first to her mentee Andrea.

“I think it is good to have someone to look up to, someone who can answer their questions and isn’t necessarily a parent,” Farlow said, “because it might be more difficult for them to talk to their parents about some things. It’s more personal and it’s someone they can confide in.”

Farlow and Andrea have been out to eat with another group of students. She is still waiting for her background check to clear but in the meantime wants to take her mentee apple and pumpkin picking with some of her friends. She has also helped Andrea start thinking about her career path and talking to her about issues she has at school.

“Hopefully I can just be there for her,” Farlow said. “Because I know as a 10th grader she’s going through a lot with her friends, and she has an older boyfriend. So I hope to just help her with her relationship with her parents, with her boyfriend, with her friends, the sports she’s involved in, and just help her pick a path she wants to go on with her schooling.”

In the end, Farlow said, what she’s hoping to get out of the program is a friend.

Deaton and Bryson feel that the success of the program lies in the JMU students being friends as well as guidance providers to their mentees. But it takes a village to raise a kid, as Bryson points out. That’s why the support of the students’ families, guidance counselors, and community members has been an integral part of the program.

In the end, the program, according to Deaton, is to give the kids a chance to be who they are and be who they can be.

Bryson added: “Somewhere along the way, because life is so chaotic, sometimes kids lose the capacity to dream. We want them to continue to have that capacity to dream, and to figure out that they can do anything.”