Donovan Forrest’s first experience with mentorship was at Millersville University, where he studied for two years before transferring to Temple University in 2015.
He served as a First Year Experience mentor, guiding freshmen through the transition to college. During that first semester, however, Millersville closed the program due to lack of funds.
“It broke my heart,” said Forrest, a senior secondary education and history major. “It really just inspired me to go forward and create my own program that I wouldn’t have to worry about going anywhere. I realized the impact it had on students and so I decided to create my own program with a similar vision and principles that the program had, to impact my community.”
DonCares of Philadelphia, a group of college students of color that leads mentorship, community service and educational workshops at Philadelphia, celebrated its third anniversary in September. The organization works specifically with students at the U School in North Philadelphia and Kensington High School.
Forrest said growing up “at-risk” and attending alternative schooling in North Philadelphia launched his trajectory into mentorship.
He was adopted at age two because his biological mother, who struggled with substance use, was unable to care for him. His adopted mother, a special education teacher for more than 30 years, taught him the importance of education and exposed him to learning opportunities and experiences.
DonCares organizes three types of programming at the U School, focused on mentoring, academic tutoring, and empowerment.
For a recent event, a “Man Up” discussion where mentors meet with a group of male students to discuss consent, conflict resolution, relationships and masculinity in the black community, DonCares partnered with Strong Men Overcoming Obstacles Through Hardwork, a student organization dedicated to community service and empowering Black men.
Nasir Harris, a senior civil engineering major and vice president of SMOOTH, helped lead the event. He said organizations like SMOOTH and DonCares are unique.
“When there are people of color and they are willing to take the drive to actually make the change whether it’s through mentoring, tutoring, or taking a young man they see walking through the hallway and saying, ‘Hey, this is why you shouldn’t be doing this,’ it’s a rare thing that’s very unappreciated,” he said.
DonCares has about 18 mentors, all Temple students of color, and has logged more than 350 one-on-one mentoring hours and hosted more than 50 resume workshops at Kensington High School.
Levon Miranda, a student at the U School and who has been with the organization since it started, said DonCares exposed him to people and resources he wouldn’t otherwise access.
“This organization is the best thing you could ever have,” he said. “So many people to get information from, and so many people to help you get through situations. It’s the best feeling ever. And you have all these connections.”
Forrest hopes the College of Education will adopt DonCares as a nonprofit that contributes to students’ service hours. He also wants the organization to receive grants from business and corporations to fund field trips and provide scholarships and book awards for the students.
In early October, three seniors at the U School taught their peers how to register to vote with support from DonCares. Voter IDs at PennDot cost $30.50, a fee some students couldn’t afford. On October 6, DonCares fund raised enough money for five seniors to get their voter ID cards.
Mentorship can have a lasting impact on a person’s life and trajectory, Forrest said.
“Positive mentoring relationships not only change lives but change our student mentees’ worldviews,” he said. “If you know that somebody else has gone to college that looks like you, you can do the same thing.”