Juniors lead students of color mentorship program


The Messenger

Juniors Maddy Blake and Caleb Jakes have been working on a mentorship program for students of color for months. The program will focus on supporting and empowering specifically underclassmen students of color.

Sophia Van Beek, Features Editor

When Maddy Blake was in ninth grade, she was approached by then-junior Jaelyn Felton ‘20, about a mentorship program for students of color. Immediately, she recognized the importance for the program and put her mind into making it a reality.

“When I put my mind to something, I will not let anyone tell me no. If I think it’s a great idea I will do whatever I can to make sure it is [seen through],” Blake, now a junior, said.

 More than a year and a half in the making, SCEEM (Students of Color Encouraging Excellence and Mentorship), is set to be implemented for the 2020-2021 school year. Before Blake officially proposed the program, she spent her time gauging interest.

She said “I was making sure that this was something that people wanted to do, making sure that I was prepared for this responsibility, that I had the support system, that I had the resources.”

It wasn’t until earlier  in this summer that Blake brought her idea for SCEEM to Class of 2022 Dean Shelly Kaye, that the program began to take shape. 

“When the whole Black At Masters page, the whole George Floyd situation, when our class meeting got interrupted, Ms. Kaye would do a lot of town halls and open office hours. My friends and I would go to them, and at one of the meetings I decided to talk with her about my idea,” Blake said.

Caleb Jakes, also a junior, has joined leadersheep of SCEEM, along with Blake and faculty advisor Kaye. Jakes, co-president of ONYX, a club that discusses themes and issues relevant to the Black community. Jakes is good friends with Blake, and also attended many of the town halls with her.

Students and alumni who apply to SCEEM are grouped with peers of color. Once the pairs are introduced, SCEEM steps back and allows the students and alumni to connect. 

“The underclassmen are able to choose whether they want an alum mentor, an upperclassmen mentor, or both. And if the upperclassmen reached out to us and said they wanted an [alum] mentor, then of course we’d be happy to give them one,” Blake said.

All mentors will undergo training in the upcoming weeks about how to conduct their relationship and connect with their mentees.

One alumni who applied was Vincent Madera ‘05. Now, Madera works at the Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry and stays connected to Masters through the diversity, equity and inclusion department. In 2019, he met with the Diversity Ambassadors and spoke about implicit bias at one morning meeting. 

Blake believes that SCEEM will help both students of color on campus, and the culture of the school in general.

Blake said, “No school wants its students divided. And although this program might look like a way for students of color to distance themselves, ultimately they’re bonding through their connection at The Masters School.” She added, “This program is just a safe space for students of color. And in the times of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, it is extremely important that students of color know they are not alone.”