Wake Forest School of Medicine students help mentor local elementary students

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The lesson was about professionalism.

Male students at Petree Elementary learned how to tie neckties and bow ties with the help of their mentors – Wake Forest School of Medicine students.

The lesson also included teaching the young men about the importance of being on time and how to properly greet someone with a handshake.

“When someone stepped in and did that for me, it was something that I kind of wanted to give back to someone else as well,” Kwone Ingram said.

The program is called SYSTEM, which stands for “supporting young scholars through empowerment and mentorship.”

With the help of Dr. Bernard Roper, director of Student Inclusion and Diversity at Wake Forest School of Medicine, Ingram was able to establish the program at Petree Elementary.

“In the Office of Student Inclusion and Diversity, this is going to be one of our formal pipeline programs,” Roper said.

“At Petree we really strive to teach the whole child and not just the academic curriculum, but the social skills and life skills,” school principal Dr. Heather Horton said.

Twice a month, Ingram and fellow medical students, around 15 total, come to the school and mentor 13 minority males.

There is usually a theme that is focused on each month.

“I like it very much because it’s [an aspirant] to me and everyone else in this program to be the best we can be and try harder in school,” fifth-grade student Joshier Bynum said.

“You have a chance to get stuff off your shoulders and let go,” fifth-grade student Amarion Ford said.

The mentoring includes group sessions as well as one-on-one interactions.

“The one-to-one ratio is very important,” school guidance counselor Nicole Morris said.

“We want the students to have that contact. We want them to have that connection between home and school,” she said.

Morris initially reached out to Dr. Roper for ideas on a mentoring program and connected with Ingram in the process to launch the program.

The first mentoring session happened at the beginning of 2017.

There are plans for the mentors to work with the students more often, and there are also plans to incorporate community service based field trips.

“Every time we leave out of here, the mentors leave excited, discussing something that happened here and they’re ready to come back,” Ingram said.