By Ethan Torres
During a farewell celebration closing out the first cohort of FIU’s Panther Partnership, a mentorship program launched last year with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami, Sr. Vice President of Human Resources and Vice Provost for DEI El pagnier Hudson addressed the attendees. “Out of our cohort of 27 Littles,” she said, “21 of you are graduating this year, and 13 of you have chosen to become FIU panthers.”
The results of the partnership speak for themselves. Nineteen of the high school graduates will pursue higher education, with more than $65,000 in scholarships to their credit. In addition to the 13 set to start at FIU, five more have plans to transfer in after completing associate degrees.
The partnership, launched last year, matched students from Miami Edison Senior High School and Miami Southridge Senior High School with FIU employees according to career interests. The pairs met monthly at MMC to go over college and scholarship applications in between job shadowing opportunities and campus tours.
According to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, more than three-quarters of the youth the organizaion serves live in households with incomes less than 80% of the national median, and 64% of youth served live in a single-parent household or with a non-parent adult. Housing and food insecurities often hinder access to education. The “Littles,” as students in the program are known, are awarded Florida Prepaid Scholarships upon completing high school.
Ashley Dauphin, who last month graduated as valedictorian from Miami Edison, will study marketing at FIU. “The program made the college application process a lot easier,” she said. “‘My experience in this program was really helpful. I had many people by my side who were able to assist me on my journey to FIU.”
Dauphin’s “Big,” Ana Valdes, was one of those people. “Mentoring Ashley has been an incredibly rewarding experience,” Valdes said. “It was a joy to see her commit to the college acceptance process, graduate with top accolades and settle in at FIU as she begins this new chapter. I am honored to have played a small role in her journey toward success, and I have no doubt that she will make us all proud.”
Anthoney Leon Dozier Jr. will major in construction management in the College of Engineering & Computing. “I like the connections,” he said, “how all the Bigs try to connect with the Littles, even outside of the campus. They don’t have to be there every day, but they take the time to make sure we’re alright.”
Howard Holness, interim associate dean of administration at the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences, mentored Dozier. “Being matched with Anthoney was an amazing experience,” Holness said. “I am so proud of him. Becoming a Big was one of the most fulfilling experiences I had this past year. Even though the time commitment seemed heavy, it was well worth it because you are helping someone further their studies or maybe choose a career. It was an incredible responsibility that I would be proud to take on again.”
The Panther Partnership is currently seeking faculty and staff members to support the next cohort. Potential mentors can get started by completing an interest form.