The mission of New England College of Optometry, NECO, is to change the way people see the world through optometric education, discovery and service. Despite a heavy academic and clinical workload, NECO students find countless ways to serve and contribute.
One such opportunity arose last week when the Boston Renaissance Charter Public School invited NECO to participate in its annual First Ladies and Young Kings Mentoring Breakfast. NECO students Charlton Butts OD2017, Sydni Glass OD2017, Sarah Miller OD2018, Adriana Ferreira OD 2018, and Arianna Jordan OD2019 joined Dr. Stacy Lyons and Elena Bilodeau at the event on March 31, 2016.
NECO has partnered with the Renaissance elementary school for over a decade, providing school based optometric screening and eye exams. The school has a strong mentoring initiative that includes several programs to cultivate young leaders and develop citizenship skills. In order to be part of the Young Kings and the First Ladies of the Renaissance mentoring programs, students must first participate in the Voices of Renaissance choir.
The Voices of Renaissance Mentoring Breakfast brought together mentors from the community and young scholars to enjoy music, speeches by community leaders, and conversation. Participating scholars showed off their talent in a performance by the choir.
“The mentor breakfast is an opportunity for successful professionals of all ages to inspire the next generation,” explains Arianna Jordan OD2019. “Each person is paired with a Young King or First Lady to share our advice and encouragement to help these young scholars reach their potential.”
Adriana Ferreira, OD2018, notes, “I wanted to be a mentor because I believe that all children should have someone they can look up to who will be there for them when they succeed but also when they are struggling.”
The March breakfast served as the start of the mentoring relationships. While the commitment can be as little as attending the event, many mentors develop strong relationships with the young leaders, serving as a support throughout the year and participating in various activities together.
Ms. Ferreira notes, “I urged my student to stay in touch so that we can hopefully do some fun things this year. (Ultimately) I just want her to know I am here for her if she ever needs me.”
NECO students expressed the ability to participate in the program and how it enriched their lives. Ms. Jordan explained, “One of the speakers said that what she’s realized by participating in this program is that it truly is a two-way beneficial street for the mentor and mentee and I couldn’t agree more. I was really inspired by these kids at the Boston Renaissance Public School. I can only hope to have a quarter of an effect on them as they have had on me.”
The Young Kings and the First Ladies of Renaissance serve as two of several mentoring programs at the Boston Renaissance Charter Public School. Participating students each sing in the Voices of Renaissance choir. The Young Kings serves to use music and affirmative spoken word to develop male students as future leaders. The First Ladies of the Renaissance develops these same leadership skills and civic engagement in female students.