After years of mentoring by male role models, 47 young men are ready to apply their training as they complete their high school experience and prepare for their collegiate years. At Hard Rock Stadium Tuesday evening, the wave of Miami-Dade County Public Schools students, also known as Wilson Scholars, walked out with a laptop in hand and a scholarship to a college or university of their choosing.
The students, members of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, participated in the Wilson Scholars Academic Signing Ceremony, where they publicly committed to different academic institutions by signing for full-ride scholarships to different colleges and universities throughout Florida.
“My has school experience was stressful but overall it has been a great experience,” said Levontay Thompson, 18, a senior at Booker T. Washington Senior High School. “I have grown a lot over the past four years and have learned a lot about myself.”
Levontay, like the other scholarship recipients, credits the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project for his chance to attend an university. He will be attending Florida State University in the fall. “The 5000 Roles Models have been there mentally, physically and financially,” he said. “They groomed me to be the young man I am today.”
The Wilson Scholars committed to schools such as Barry University, Florida International University, Miami Dade College, and several historically Black institutions including Bethune-Cookman University, Florida Memorial University and Florida A&M University.
The Wilson Scholars are named after Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who founded the then-known 500 African American Role Models of Excellence in 1993, while serving on the county's public schools board.
“These young men have been in the program since they were in the third grade,” Wilson said at the ceremony. “We have kept them on a carefully charted path to manhood and today we release them to the world.”
Her organization works with different schools and community partners to provide full-time scholarships to “at-risk” Black and minority young men. “Our boys will not graduate with student-loan debt,” Wilson said.
The scholarships were possible through partnerships created with the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Foundation. Ancillary support comes from the Miami Dolphins, which donated a new laptop to each of the soon-to-be college students, and elected officials. This marks the second Wilson Scholar Academic Signing Ceremony hosted by the Miami Dolphins as part of its Football Unites program.
“We want to use football to bring about positive educational and social changes and positive direction for these young men,” said Jason Jenkins, a Dolphins spokesman.
Earlier in May, the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project and the Miami Dolphins held their annual Police and Youth Conference, designed to bring police officers and young men together for a day of bonding and understanding each other.
“We want to be very intentional with the groups that we work with and make a long term impact throughout our community,” Jenkins said.
Levontay said that his experience in the 5000 Role Models of Excellence was invaluable and the mentoring he received will allow him to attend college, thrive and keep furthering his studies.
“They have been there with mentorship and anything else we need and just exposing us to different things in life,”Levontay said.