Thursday, September 23, 2010
Gina Neri was a high school dropout.
As Neri puts it, she had fallen through the cracks. She was not doing very well academically and had little guidance, so she left her junior year. However, Neri soon realized that she could not go real far in the professional world without a diploma. She needed a plan.
Luckily, Neri was surrounded by family members who were able to mentor and steer her in the right direction. Three years later, she finished her GED and enrolled in a Psychology program at LaSalle University.
“The potential was always there. I was just distracted by everyday living,” she explained.
Neri, who is a second year graduate student in the Counseling Services program at Rider and a counseling intern at a high school in Philadelphia, had the opportunity to share her story with middle school and high school students during the Three Doctors Foundation’s Mentor Day. The eighth annual program was held on Rider University’s Lawrenceville campus on September 18. Neri, was among the 75 professionals from various industries, who provided educational advice and career mentoring to more than 300 sixth to 12th graders from New Jersey and New York City public schools.
Neri was able to talk to the students about the role of school counselors, how to apply to college and college life.
“Their mouths dropped open when I shared my story. You could tell that they were thinking, You dropped out of high school? I guess it was the element of surprise for them,” said Neri, adding that she shared her story so the students could realize that everyone faces obstacles, which they can overcome. “My experience motivated me to become a high school counselor. I’m trying to be what I didn’t get in high school.”
Meanwhile, Angela DiFranco, a senior Educational and Psychology dual major and a student teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Trenton, shared her experience and advice with students. DiFranco, who received a teaching grant focused on inner city youth, said that demographic is her passion.
“Growing up, I was given a lot of opportunities for education. I attended private schools before studying at Rider. Two years ago, I taught at a school in Jamaica, which had dirt floors,” she said. “I realized by working with inner city students, I was able to make a difference in their life. As a mentor, you can make a difference.”
Mentor Day also feature the foundation’s own Dr. Sampson Davis, Dr. Rameck Hunt and Dr. George Jenkins — three childhood friends from Newark, N.J., who made a pact to stick together, go to college, and become doctors. They have shared their remarkable story in their books, The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream, We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Led to Success, and The Bond: Three Young Men Learn to Forgive and Reconnect with Their Fathers.
Rider Students from the Rider Achievement Program (RAP), Educational Opportunity Program and Rider’s Admissions staff also volunteer throughout the day. Middle and high school students in the College of Business Administration’s community outreach program, Minding Our Business (M.O.B.), also participated during Mentor Day.
M.O.B. participants Niambi McCoy, a ninth grader at Highland Park High School, and Raymond Davis, an eighth grader at Gregory Elementary School, were both inspired by the advice they received from the three doctors and the mentors. McCoy dreams of becoming a politician and Davis wants to play for a NBA or NFL team.
“I learned that you have to strive for your dreams. You have to find different things in your community to reach those dreams, and if they are not in your community, you have to find it yourself,” McCoy said.
In addition to meeting with the participating students, Davis, Hunt and Jenkins shared remarks with the entire audience at the conclusion of the program. The three doctors talked about the importance of education and following your dreams.
“You can be whatever you want to be in life. We depend on young people. One day, I’m going to need a doctor to take care of me,” Hunt said to the young participants. “We just want you guys to believe in your dreams. There are a lot of opportunities out there for young people.”