Students learn about school, work, life from new mentors
For most of the purple-and-gold-clad brothers of Omega Psi Phi who visited Deep River Elementary School on Wednesday, it was about community service. For Christopher Lyons, it was a homecoming of sorts.
Lyons went to Deep River Elementary School back in the day, and when his fraternity chapter was discussing possible projects, he suggested they visit his old school. Members of the fraternity's Xi Mu Mu chapter, now past college but still united in service, do projects throughout Lee, Johnston and southern Wake counties, although this was their first time working in a Lee County school. Nine of them were there Wednesday morning reading to students and talking to them about their future in school, work and life in general.
In Amy Davidson's second grade class, Jerome Fleming and Keith Grantham sat in front of a semicircle of students, asking and answering questions. For Fleming, a graduate of East Carolina University, the focus was on succeeding in high school and beyond — even though that's still a decade away for the youngsters.
"I'm going to come back at graduation, and I want to see all of you walk across the stage and then say, 'I'm going to East Carolina, I'm going to N.C. State, to Shaw, Duke, Carolina, any college,'" he said. "A lot of you told me today you want to be teachers or principals when you grow up. You need to go to college to do that."
The conversation turned toward the individual students' goals for the future — a pair of girls wanted to be a principal and assistant principal team, for example, and one boy wanted to be like his dad and work on power lines — and Grantham said afterward he was impressed by how willing the students all were to talk about their future goals.
"They were very interactive," he said. "... Very well-behaved, compared to some kids I've seen."
Lyons had similar praise for the students at his old school.
"All the kids were intelligent, well mannered," he said. "It made you feel good. I work with kids with behavioral problems, mental problems, so I see how some of them can be."
School leaders said they were more than happy to host the fraternity, since they're always trying to find creative ways to get students thinking about their futures. Principal Amy Lundy said she thought it was a great chance to imprint on the students good feelings about the benefits of a college education — and how it's the little things, like being able to read well and have fun doing it, that can help students make it.
"I just felt it was a good opportunity for us to have some good male role models on campus, give them attention and read to them," she said.
Assistant Principal Jennifer Rosser said the students might not remember every detail of these activities when they get older, but they will have positive memories associated with college-educated men.
"That memory is what's going to last when they start working toward those goals," she said, later adding: "You can never start too early. From my own perspective, one of my daughters is aspiring to be a doctor because of an experience she had when she was 8 years old. And now she's at UNC-Chapel Hill."
Davidson, the teacher whose class bombarded Fleming and Grantham with a whole spectrum of questions, said she was glad they came because her students seemed to love it.
"They were a little chatty about it after," she said at the end of the school day, adding that the guests did a superb job of connecting with the students and getting them to open up about themselves. "I think it was a really good experience for them."