DEERFIELD BEACH — On a recent warm Saturday morning, students filed onto the Deerfield Beach Middle School campus. Accompanied by their parents, they hurried into the cafeteria, not for a sporting event or make-up class. They came for the launch of Mentoring Tomorrow’s Leaders (MTL), a dropout prevention program for high-achieving seventh- and eighth-graders who receive mentorship and leadership training.
Mentoring Tomorrow’s Leaders was created to address a growing graduation decline among Broward Schools’ black male students. The district’s overall graduation rate is 75.3 percent but the county ranks fifth among those with the largest black male enrollment and only a 39 percent graduation rate among this group.
Since its inception the MTL program has expanded to include outreach to both boys and girls who are deemed to be at-risk of dropping out of school.
Deerfield Beach Middle School, 701 SE Sixth Ave, Deerfield Beach, has 1,332 students.
Studies show that programs which provide youth with formal one-to-one mentoring relationships succeed in reducing the incidence of delinquency, substance use and academic failure. Research also shows that mentoring programs can promote positive outcomes, such as improved self-esteem, social skills and knowledge of career and post- graduation opportunities.
“The cornerstones of this program give our students the foundation they need for academic success and provide ongoing tools and life skills from peer and adult mentors,” said Francine Baugh, Deerfield Beach Middle’s principal. To decrease the drop-out rate and increase high school graduation and college enrollment rates, MTL operates on five principles: academic achievement, mentoring, family involvement, community support and incentives. The program kick-off took place in January and included remarks from Broward County Circuit Court Judge Ilona Holmes and Broward County Assistant Chief Public Defender Gordon Weeks.
Program participants receive ongoing academic support from peer mentors and supportive adults, attend workshops which help them develop their social and emotional skills and visit their local high school. Students have regular guest speakers who are professionals from various careers, earn incentives for academic achievement and get rigorous academic monitoring and career exploration guidance from caring adults on the school campus.
Topics in the program series include calculating GPA, course selection, admission requirements, career inventory, goal setting, conflict resolution, study skills and advocacy and the state’s Bright Futures Scholarship requirements.
The MTL program is funded by the Jim Moran Foundation, which awarded Deerfield Beach Middle a three-year grant of $162,000. Foundation officials said its mission is to improve the quality of life for youth and families of Florida through support for innovative programs and opportunities that meet the changing needs of the community.
“The MTL program brings together a unique partnership between students, parents and community leaders and is in perfect alignment with our school motto, ‘Stride with P.R.I.D.E. – Personal Responsibility Involving Daily Effort,’” Baugh said. “This program gives them strategies to be better students and people every day.”