The Prospering Above The Hardships (P.A.T.H.) organization, a student group aiming to incite change through mentorship and leadership, has developed at Kean University. Their objective is to give valuable life skills and studying habits to high school students in Newark, New Jersey.
Seniors Gina Elwassemmi and Damion Wilson collaborated in creating an inclusive student group whose primary objective is to assist students attending Eastside High School (EHS) in Newark, New Jersey. Elwassemmi, a senior majoring in psychology, is the active president for the new group. Her classmate and Vice President Damion Wilson, is the current senior class president who majors in communication. The organization was formed this semester and has plans to expand its network to different students and schools throughout the northern sections of New Jersey. P.A.T.H. wishes to inspire, encourage and uplift students throughout schools in inner cities, as well as create big brother or sister environments for those who need them.
"We want to give back to the community. We all come from different areas and struggles, so it is very important to let [the high school students] know that just because they are coming from somewhere that may be looked down, it does not mean that they do not matter," said Wilson. "We are looking to give them an open ear because sometimes, they just want to be heard. They may want someone to listen to them, and that is what we are here for."
The student organization plans to offer multiple services to the students at Eastside High School, such as tutoring, assistance in applying to different colleges, clarifying the process of financial aid and friendly accompaniment from the role models within the organization that attendees of the school may need.
"All of the things that we as the founders of this group may not have had or may have had help with will be offered to them so that they have a better chance of succeeding," Elwassemmi said. "The students that we are working with have all been through a point of trauma in their lives and the problem is that there is only one social worker in the entire school, while there are thousands of students that go there. We want to offer them whatever they need at any point."
The organization was created after Elwassemmi openly reached out to the current senior class president about starting a new organization that dealt with mentoring, and after conducting research on the student groups that focus on peer mentoring for high school students, she found that the university was without a group that performed this act of service. Her goal was to give back to not only those at Kean, but to the communities surrounding it.
"I know, growing up myself, I had people that mentored me and they are the reasons that I am here in college, and I want to help pass what I have learned down to the students we will be working with," Wilson commented. "I just want to give back what I have received."
The president of this organization is also motivated to helping others obtain success, as she has been helped along the way by mentors as well.
"Just being there for these kids and letting them know that it is possible to succeed is my motivation," Elwassemmi said. "Whether we see it that way or not, we have accomplished something by being where we are at right now. We want these students to get to where we are at while bettering themselves in any way, shape or form and be the little helping hand that pulls them up and gets them to where they need to be."
Wilson and Elwassemmi both agree that those who wish to sign up for this new organization can learn what it means to give back by spending their time with people who will cherish it. During Kean Day on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, The first official signups for the P.A.T.H. organization were available for students who wished to make a difference in the communities around them. However, those who were not able to make it to their table can simply contact the president and vice president, as well as find out more information about the organization's upcoming events via their Cougar Link webpage.
"When we usually give back, we think of donating money, but you can give back by just being there for someone, and it is important for [the kids at EHS] to know that some people just need a helping hand because not everybody has a role model at home telling them to go to college or succeed in life, and that is where we want to step in," Wilson said.