The first-ever Malcolm X Memorial Day of Excellence, a full-day session for 25 students from Princeton High School (PHS), provided the opportunity for young men to have conversations with professional men and to strategize about how to overcome the challenges boys face as they navigate their way through high school and transition to post high-school life.
The event, held at the Princeton Arts Council on May 19, was organized by Bethany Andrade Siddiqu, coordinator of Student and Family Services for Princeton Public Schools, according to information provided by the school district.
“My hope is that these students will be inspired by this program to reach their full potential,” Siddiqu said in the statement. “We want to provide role models of color in the Princeton community.”
She cited human rights activist Malcom X as an example of the power of community activism. The PHS students had the opportunity to examine the life and legacy of Malcom X as part of the program.
Siddiqu noted that a colleague, PHS science teacher Joy Barnes-Johnson, approached her with the idea of starting a mentoring program for young men at Princeton High. Siddiqu partnered with PHS Assistant Principal Rashone Johnson to make it a reality, according to the statement.
Johnson was part of the program, encouraging the students to make the most of the time with an impressive roster of male role models, including Randall E. Toby, author and founder of the Magnificent Men Mentoring Group. Corey Laramore, a published author who serves as coordinator of Student Health and Safety for Princeton Public Schools, spoke about entrepreneurship and high school life. In addition, Kevin C. Hudson, associate director for Diversity and College Opportunity at Princeton University, discussed college access and success. Carter Patterson, director of Programs at the Father Center of New Jersey, engaged the group with hip-hop music and a discussion on how critical thinking intersects with culture and music.
The mentoring event included students in grades 9-12. A high percentage of the seniors who participated will attend college next year; many credited Siddiqu with the inspiration and assistance that enabled them to attend college, according to the statement.
Siddiqu said she felt honored that so many students felt comfortable being honest with her about challenges they experience in high school.
“We have been working hard this year to create a community within the school for our students of color,” Siddiqu said in the statement.
She said she plans to continue hosting similar programs in the future.
Siddiqu serves as the advisor for the Princeton High School chapter of the Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN) as well as a for the PULSE (Pride Univerity Leadership Sisterhood Esteem) program designed for young women at PHS. The PHS MSAN group is open to all students and focuses on eliminating the opportunity gaps at Princeton High School.