Flourish with CHANGE: Africana CHANGE Jr. makes an impact in the Greensboro community
In 2009, Africana Community Coordinator Jada Drew founded the Africana CHANGE Program for students of African descent to participate together in an independent study program.
The program began with five students and now is in its fourth year with 10 students. Africana CHANGE excels in empowerment and education, as the acronym stands for Character development, Heritage awareness, Academic excellence, Nourishment, Global leadership, and Enrichment/Exposure.
Then, in 2011, Assistant Professor of Justice and Policy Studies Barbara Lawrence spoke as a guest speaker at a CHANGE meeting and was intrigued by the conversation and suggested that it go outside of the campus.
“We need to take this out to the community,” said Drew. “We should engage younger folks and spread our knowledge and experience and mentor youth.”
Thus, the CHANGE Jr. Program was born. The “CHANGErs” go to Dudley High School once a week on Fridays and engage in educational and empowering conversations about race, gender, sexuality, politics and social status. They do activities that require them to expand their knowledge of the Africana culture and practice public speaking skills.
Though Drew’s long-term goal for the program included bringing it to the community, Lawrence gave her that “extra push” that she needed.
This year, the program caters to two classes of 60 students, instead of the four classes of 80 from last year.
“The decision was made because we don’t have a full staff this year,” said Drew. “It was a good idea to scale back, because we are able to provide a more intentional and quality experience for the kids.”
Drew would have liked more advising and mentoring herself as a teenager.
“Just to have someone who was close to my age and be able to learn from their experience … as a high school student, I would have liked to learn from the experience of college students,” said Drew.
Senior Monterikia Barthell, a new member of the Africana CHANGE Program and a mentor for CHANGE Jr., was always influenced by positive black women and wants to do the same for other young ladies.
“There were always successful young women around me that I use to look up to, and they challenged me to become more than just a statistic,” said Barthell.
When asked what she hoped to gain from the program, she responded, “I want to be able to look and see things from their perspective.”
Senior Tj Evans, a first-year in the Africana CHANGE Program and second-year participant and mentor in the CHANGE Jr. Program, believes it is important for him to “reach out to the kids, help them to find their culture … (and) teach them things that they don’t really teach in high school these days.”
Evans wished he had someone to tell him to push himself in high school so that he could have a better future.
“My biggest mentor was my mother,” said Evans. “She was my mother, my father and everything. … She kept me out of trouble.”
He also said it would have been nice to have a male figure as a mentor, which is what led him to the Africana CHANGE Program.
Drew has created a multifaceted organization that represents the encouraging atmosphere, intelligence and minorities that live in the Guilford community.
When asked what she appreciates the most about the program, Drew stated, “the power of connecting generations, that’s what I get out of it.”