Valdosta State University and Valdosta High School celebrate HEROESInstitute success

October 2, 2006

Charles Harmon Director of University Relations, Dr. Shirley Hardin, Director HEROES Institute 229-249-4843

Valdosta State University and Valdosta High School celebrate HEROESInstitute success

HEROES Institute, a Valdosta State University African American Male Initiative (AAMI), recently celebrated during the past summer the successful completion of a 12-weekend academic session targeted toward improving academic performance and high school graduation rates among African American males. Earlier in the year, 25 ninth grade African American males from Valdosta High School accepted VSU's invitation to participate in HEROES (Helping Everyone Reach Optimum Educational Success), an initiative which is funded through a partnership between the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and Valdosta State University, and supported by the Valdosta City School Board of Education.

Dr. Shirley Hardin, VSU's Director of the HEROES Institute, said the expected result of the program is to increase college enrollment, retention and graduation. She said the Closing Awards Banquet held during the summer for the VHS participants was "magical" and evidenced a genuine transformation in the lives of the young men.

"Valdosta State University considers the HEROES program a major priority and we are delighted to be working with officials of the Valdosta City Schools on this project," said VSU President Ronald M. Zaccari. "It has been with great pride that I observed the academic and social progress of the participants and the positive outcomes generated by hard work and success. The faculty, composed of VSU and Valdosta City School personnel, did an outstanding job in teaching and mentoring the 25 young men."

"The HEROES program has transformed individuals. It clearly documents the power of mentoring combined with strong teaching and learning," Zaccari said. "The personal accomplishments of each student are a tribute to the leadership and talent of the teachers and community leaders who have given their time to see this program succeed."

Students receiving awards included: Perfect Attendance (Attended all 12 sessions): Lonnie Reynolds; Almost Perfect Attendance (Missed only one session): Errin Tooley, Calvin Watts II, LaTaris Berry, and Darius Wooten; Outstanding Achievement in Academic Subjects: English (Robert Morrison, Jr.); Pre-Algebra (Lonnie Reynolds); Social Studies (Diante' Boatman) and French (LaTaris Berry). Academic Excellence based on Stanford Assessment Scores: Robert Morrison, Jr. and Errin Tooley. "Mr. Citizenship" Award (Gabriel Cooper) and "Mr. HERO" (Best All Around � Parker D. Mathis.)

Hardin said some of the young HEROES reported making A's (as their final grades) in academic subjects at Valdosta High School. She said several of the young HEROES participated in a six part S.A.T. Workshop during August 2006. Students increased their verbal, math and writing skills.

Hardin said that along with the students and their parents, HEROES Institute is the collective efforts of the VSU AAMI Team, consisting of Mr. Charleston Carter, community coordinator; 22 VSU faculty, students, and staff; Mr. Mike Samaras, VHS assistant principal; the VHS Ninth Grade Academy Staff, and community educators. HEROES Institute's program motto is "The tassel is worth the hassle."

VSU is one of 10 USG institutions to receive funding to support the African-American Male Initiative. Participants in the program receive one-on-one mentoring services, academic tutoring, preparatory sessions for the Georgia High School Graduation Test, social adjustment courses, academic workshops and other resources that will encourage college enrollment.