New program empowers elementary school students

In school, your student can face social challenges or issues of acceptance especially if not many kids are like them. One Murray State University graduate student started a program this fall to help combat these issues.

MSU Grad student Jasmine Young created the B.R.A.V.E program at Murray Elementary School in September. B.R.A.V.E stands for black, respectful, achieving, victorious, and empowered. Young, who is working on a Masters in School Counseling, says Murray Elementary administration approached her last year while she was interning there.

“The administration came to me and said, ‘Jasmine we are starting to see a pattern with African American students. They’re starting to feel excluded, they have low self-esteem, and we can’t really reach them’” Young said.

Census data reveals Murray is 7% African American. Young says Murray Elementary teachers are an all Caucasian female staff.

“They have no representation of black anywhere in the school. I was the only one, and I was only there for a semester. So, they wanted to see what can I do, what can we do to help bridge this gap, to help bring a safe environment to the school,’ Young said.

That’s where B.R.A.V.E comes in, 16 pairs consisting of MSU students along with 2nd and 3rd grade students has now formed.

“Come into the school and play a part in that whether they’re an advocate, whether they’re helping them with math, whether they’re helping them through social challenges and feeling accepted,” Young said.

The pairs are required to meet once a week at school and once a month outside of school. Senior Taisha Collins, who is paired with 3rd grade student Micaah Baker, says she loves it.

“This is something I’m passionate about. I enjoy hanging out with him just because I know how important it was for me to have a mentor when I was younger,” Collins said.

Collins and Micaah have hung out at the movies, and at his home in addition to sitting together in class.

“We kind of communicate back and forth on things he needs help in, and skills he could like enhance,” Collins said.

Young said it’s about creating self-awareness, because even though we may want to treat everyone the same sometimes that is not possible.

“With different races more students need attention, more students need that extra push, and with the African American culture because they don’t have anyone in the school that looks like them and to advocate for them it’s hard to relate,” Young said.

B.R.A.V.E is creating a way to communicate.

“Bridge that gap to say it’s okay to talk to others, but it’s great that you have someone who’s like you that can understand,” Young said.

Young says one month has already made a huge difference.

The teachers come to me like, ‘Oh my gosh, we see improvement with socializing, we see improvement in academics, we see improvement in motivation,’" Young said.

Young wants to expand the program to Murray Middle school in January and eventually make it multicultural. Her hope is to make B.R.A.V.E a nationwide program.

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