Salisbury High teacher mentors female students

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 17, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Felecia Young is more than just a math teacher to Janiya Withers.
“She’s like my second mom,” the Salisbury High School freshman said.
For Shayla Snowden and Treasure Hopkins, Young is a motivator.
“We look up to her because she’s done a lot and accomplished a lot,” Snowden said.
Young is using the tight-knit connections she has with her students to launch a mentoring program targeting African-American females.
“The idea was to pick at least 10 girls that I felt could be motivated and inspired to become better citizens,” she said. “We deal a lot with African-American males and females being looked at in a negative way, this is a way to turn that stereotype around.”
Young has dubbed the group PEARLS, which stands for Positive, Educated, Respectful Ladies.
The group meets every Tuesday to talk about a variety of topics and develop life skills such as drafting resumes and interviewing.
“I want them to be able to come and talk to me about any and everything,” Young said. “I know when I was growing up, I couldn’t just tell my mom everything. And I know one person’s mistakes or one person’s problem can actually help others if they are heard.”
But Young said her primary focus is academics.
After going to a conference as the school’s Teacher of the Year, Young said she realized African-American females are “very under-represented” in Advanced Placement and honor classes.
“It’s about me being more hands-on with them when they are making class selections and making sure I’m staying in contact with their teachers,” she said.
Young said she’s hoping some of the girls, all freshmen now, will eventually become junior marshals, a designation for the top 10 percent of the class.
“I’ve been here for six years and I haven’t seen an African-American in the top,” she said. “They can do it, they just might need a push.”
Whitney Mitchell said she appreciates Young’s support.
“It’s good to know you have a teacher who wants you to do better,” she said.
Hopkins agrees.
“At least we know somebody is going to help us, to guide us,” she said.
Young said she is focusing her efforts on freshman girls that she can follow throughout their time at Salisbury High. And she’s keeping the group small.
“The smaller you have it, the more impact you can have working one-on-one with them,” she said.
Although academics is a major component of the mentoring group, Young is also pushing the girls to get involved in the community.
The group, formed about a month ago, hosted a book drive earlier this month.
“One of the things I experienced as a teacher is we had a lot of students that came over that were not on grade level reading-wise so I thought this would be a way to get students reading during the summer,” Young said.
The girls collected about 200 books during that period to donate to the Battered Women’s Shelter, Communities in Schools of Rowan County and Rowan Helping Ministries.
The group is also working on an anti-bullying campaign, which they plan to launch this October during national Bullying Prevention Month.
“My goal is when they see it, they’ll stop it,” Young said. “I want them to take a stand.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.