DETROIT -- Graduate student Shannon Marchant of the University of Detroit Mercy women's track and field team has helped initiate a group-mentoring program during the 2013-14 academic school year. The program is designed to assist students at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (JRLA) to transition and succeed through their high school years, into college, and beyond.
"Being a Scholar Athlete for Life: An Anti-Substance Abuse Pro-Alternative Program" is the name of the program that was in the planning stages in the summer of 2013 and came to fruition in the spring of 2014. That is when Marchant began to put her stamp on the program after the foundation was piloted for three years at other area high schools for general students.
"When Shannon interviewed for a position at the Institute for Leadership and Service, it was clear that she was capable of leading important projects. Her commitment to service and the Detroit area was evident and we wanted to encourage her talents," said Dr. Kathleen Zimmerman-Oster, Co-Director of the Institute and Professor in the Department of Psychology at UDM. "Shannon's experience as a student athlete for four years at UDM was the perfect fit for the growing partnership between the Institute and the Department of Athletics, and she was just the person we wanted to take that lead." As the program was looking to grow, Marchant's application to work with the Ford Community Corps Project (FCCP) came at the perfect time.
Marchant applied for a position to assist with programs that are funded through UDM's Institute for Leadership and Service by the Ford Motor Company Fund (a non-profit arm of the Ford Motor Company). The Ford Community Corps Partnership (FCCP) programs typically pair student leaders with faculty and/or staff to create intentional service projects. Since Marchant had experience as a student-athlete competing for women's track and field, it was a natural next step to pair her with UDM's Assistant Athletic Director for NCAA Compliance, Steve Corder to work with other student-athletes and create a partnership in the environment that she lives in everyday. Marchant also expressed her desire to contribute to the community of Detroit that had supported her throughout her years living in the city. She thought this project could provide the same opportunity for other student athletes, too.
Corder loved the idea and started working with Marchant to plan the outline for the program over the summer. Together they came up with a proposal that went beyond the previous "Step Up" Program and focused specifically on student athletes. The next step was to confirm a location for the project to take place and the timing was perfect because the principal at JRLA, Joe Tenbush was looking to expand the work that had already begun with UDM.
Since 2010, the University had developed a formal agreement with the newly formed JRLA. The University assisted in evaluating the environmental health of the building chosen to serve as the school and participated in planning and development of the new school that first opened its doors in the fall of 2011. The goal of the formal partnership was to have JRLA students interact with UDM through campus visits, activities, guest lecturers, and college mentoring. Beginning in the 11th grade, JRLA students will be granted the opportunity for dual enrollment at UDM. Thus, the intention is that many of the participating students will graduate from JRLA, as well as from UDM.
Dr. Zimmerman-Oster set up a meeting with Marchant, Corder, Tenbusch, and Professor Diane Manica who has been serving as the liaison for the JRLA-UDM Partnership since 2010. Because of Marchant's enthusiasm and ability to organize the project, Tenbusch committed to the project right away..
"Shannon was a great starter for this and she really has taken it forward with her athlete's perspective. We are looking to grow the program so that it can be a sustained partnership between the two schools," said Dr. Zimmerman- Oster.
"We go to the high school and we talk about leadership and being a scholar athlete, about being a good kid, and anti-drug initiatives and alternatives to drug use. I was attracted to it right away," said Chris Shevins, a junior on the UDM men's lacrosse team. "I feel like in the Detroit area it is tough to find role models and I think some athletes who are from the surrounding area definitely want to give the JRLA students guidance for the future."
Information about the 12-week program is shared with the students at JRLA, who are required to formally apply to the program. Sessions occur on both the UDM and JRLA campuses and the Univeristy provides transportation to get both sets of students to where they need to be. The topics discussed during these group mentoring sessions included:
Balancing Life as a High School Student
How to Intervene When Someone Needs Help
How to Reduce Prejudice
Social Media and You
Prevening Substance Abuse
When Marchant first started planning the program, she thought there was going to be a major focus on substance abuse. But, she realized that lecturing on that every week gets old. Instead, in line with current thinking in the drug prevention field, she altered the program into a pro-alternative program to address other topics and to teach life skills. So both sets of students participate in study sessions and attended a Titan basketball game and pot luck dinner together.
For every student-athlete from UDM, there are two students from JRLA academy making it a 2-1 ratio and providing students with the opportunity to grow closer to their mentors.
"As I was getting ready to graduate, I knew I wanted to be a student leader and partner with someone somewhere in the community. That narrowed it down because I knew I wanted to work with students because I am not too far removed from being a high school student myself," said Marchant. Eventhough I was in my last year of undergraduate school at UDM, I knew it wasn't too late to step things up and take my own leadership to the next level.
Part of Marchant's role is to recruit other UDM student-athletes to serve as group mentors for the program in its first year and has gained a following of Titan student-athletes who mentored the JRLA students throughout the winter semester:
Women's Golf - Lindsey Lammers
Women's Golf - Sarah Montone
Women's Golf - Brooke Sharpe
Women's Golf - Olivia Richards
Men's Lacrosse - Alex Wilson
Men's Lacrosse - Shayne Adams
Men's Lacrosse - Scott Drummond
Men's Lacrosse - Chris Shevins
Women's Soccer - Mary LeAnnais
Men's Soccer - Matt DeVries
Men's Soccer - Adam Clauss
Men's Soccer - Tommy Bowman
Women's Track and Field - Shannon Marchant
Women's Track and Field - Jasmine Greene
Men's Track and Field - Dylan Kruis
Men's Track and Field - Colton Wirgau
Men's Track and Field - Brandon Wilks
Men's Track and Field - Joe Harmon
Men's Track and Field - Zach Sand
Women's Basketball - Megan Hatter
Men's Basketball - Jarod Williams
(Release courtesy of Detroit athletics media relations)