Tampa (FL) Chapter Of The Links Inc
Services To The Youth
“The question is not whether we can afford to invest in every child; it is whether we can afford not to.” Marian Wright Edelman
The words of the great children’s advocate, Marian Wright Edelman, resonate with us today more than ever. The Links, Incorporated is committed to leading the way as a champion of change, ensuring that youth are academically successful and engaged in healthy lifestyles. We implement transformational programs that are responsive to the academic, health, cultural, social awareness, career development, and mentoring needs of youth.
The Services to Youth facet uses an integrated approach to prepare young people to succeed as healthy citizens in the global workforce and to promote healthy lifestyles within families and communities. In support of The Links’ mission to enrich and enhance the lives of black youth, the primary goals of this facet are to:
National Mentoring Initiative
The Links, Incorporated seeks to intervene and serve children who are growing up without the guidance and support of a caring, responsible adult. Research shows that mentoring decreases the likelihood that young people will engage in harmful behaviors, while improving the chances that they will attend school regularly, improve academically, increase self-esteem, and engage in healthier lifestyles.
Mentoring is strategically integrated into all Services to Youth programs and initiatives. Links members mentor, recruit, register, and support mentors in their communities. The National Mentoring Initiative also supports the Young Achievers and Links to Success: Children Achieving Excellence programs.
Locally, the Tampa Chapter has actively engaged in mentoring at local schools for more than 16 years. Our ambitious program Envisioning the Future: Mentoring to Change Lives is focused on transforming the lives of underserved, at-risk, and economically disadvantaged youth. The eighth largest school district in the nation, Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) educates 212,000 students. The demographics, listed in the HCPS Strategic Plan, indicate that children of color represent the majority of enrolled students. Further, 62% of children educated in HCPS are economically disadvantaged and forty of the state’s lowest performing elementary schools are located in Hillsborough County. Research from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) confirms that poverty coupled with low performing schools often results in poor academic performance. The Tampa (FL) Chapter of The Links, Inc is committed to bridging this gap by enhancing critical thinking skills, conflict resolution skills, literacy skills and study skills into the two of the county’s lowest performing schools, Sheehy Elementary and Carter G. Woodson K-8 School. The Royal Jewels and Gents at Sheehy, fifth grade boys and girls, as well as the Radiant Jewels at Carter G. Woodson K-8 School, the eighth-grade girls, benefit directly from monthly one-on-one mentoring, anti-bullying sessions, STEAM lessons, career awareness, healthy food choices and exposure to cultural activities throughout the school year. Food insecurity is a significant issue at both schools and 95% of students at both schools rely on the Free/Reduced Lunch Program. Healthy after-school snacks provided by the chapter help to fill the hunger void. Additionally, The Gents lack male figures in their lives due to absentee fathers who have either abandoned their children and/or are incarcerated. As a result, the male mentors play an integral role in the Gents’ lives. The male mentors are community leaders as well as members of the National Panhellenic Association. Together with our community partners, we hope to transform the lives of the mentoring students and future generations by helping them envision a future that is limitless!
Signature: Links to Success, Children Achieving Excellence “An Early Literacy Program”
This signature program is based on the belief that reading is the foundation enabling all children to succeed and that effective teaching of reading must begin at the earliest age with effective literacy practices. The 30 Million Word Gap cites that during the early years of cognitive development, many impoverished children generally hear 30 million fewer words by age three than their privileged peers. With effective intervention, the literacy gap can be closed, and children can then move forward and master other subjects and grade level skills.
The goal of Links to Success: Children Achieving Excellence is to mentor and assist in closing the achievement gap for pre-K-3rd grade minority students with an emphasis on literacy and healthy lifestyles.
Locally, the Tampa Chapter has promoted early literacy for many years. Our ambitious program 14th Annual African American Read In: Promoting Literacy with Distinguished Role Models is focused on transforming the lives of underserved, at-risk, and economically disadvantaged youth. The eighth largest school district in the nation, Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) educates 212,000 students. The demographics, listed in the HCPS Strategic Plan, indicate that children of color represent the majority of enrolled students. African American students lag behind their white peers in reading proficiency according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Additionally, 62% of children educated in HCPS are economically disadvantaged. Poverty is highly correlated with low reading performance according to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. We are committed to bridging this gap by enhancing the literacy skills of African American children by targeting the youth in one of the county’s lowest performing schools, Dr. Paul Sheehy Elementary. In our 14th Annual African American Read In program, we shine a light on African American authors and African Americans generally by bringing together prominent African Americans and other community leaders and dignitaries to read and celebrate literacy. Prominent dignitaries volunteer their time to read a book by an African American author to every class within Sheehy Elementary during the program. Following the program all of the books are donated to the school courtesy of The Links’ book drive efforts. The Tampa Chapter and the dignitaries continue to volunteer at the school throughout the school year to further our efforts in improving literacy, fostering a love of reading, closing the achievement gap, and providing role models of color for the students. Together with our community partners, we hope to transform the lives of African American children through our focus on literacy and African American authors.
National HBCU Initiative
The goal of the National HBCU Initiative is to implement and increase the retention and graduation rates of students attending HBCUs. While emphasizing the relevance of HBCUs’ past, present and future, this initiative strives to create synergy and complement program initiatives already underway at schools.
Locally, the Tampa Chapter awarded three $1,000 scholarships and $250 book stipends to HBCU students. We were proud to award the scholarships to students attending the HBCU schools in Florida including Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters College, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and Florida Memorial University. We also awarded a scholarship to a HBCU student attending Hampton University.
National STEM Education & Career Readiness Initiative
The National STEM Education and Career Readiness Initiative was created out of The Links, Incorporated’s dedication to ensuring quality STEM education at all grade levels so that youth may be exposed to and prepared for STEM related careers. By preparing and encouraging students to attend colleges and universities with STEM related programs, The Links, Incorporated equips students of color with the skills to compete and excel in a global workforce that increasingly relies on individuals with STEM related proficiencies.
Locally, the Tampa Chapter is em-POWERing Youth Through STEM by immersing them in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. During the school year in partnership with the University of South Florida’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, the Hillsborough County Public School District and community members, we conducted a STEM education program for the entire fifth grade class at Dr. Paul Sheehy Elementary School, a Title I school serving at risk youth. Year-long mentoring activities helped em-POWER the youth concerning the importance of STEM and the proliferation of STEM careers. The students engaged in exciting hands-on engineering and building activities, hands-on health education involving cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and engaging interactive trips to our local science center. We are closing the achievement gap and our youth are em-POWERED!