Florida Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson on Sunday afternoon announced the expansion of her in-school mentoring program to the Bahamas aboard a cruise ship anchored at PortMiami as guests celebrated the country’s 50th anniversary.
Among those in attendance were Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, Miami-Dade County Public School Board Chairwoman Mari Tere Rojas and Bahamian Prime Minister Philip Davis.
Founded by Wilson in 1993, the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project matches male mentors with male high school students to provide them with alternatives that could lead them on the track of success. Wilson, a former Miami-Dade County School Board member, teacher and principal, said the program is active in Miami-Dade, Broward, Pinellas and Duval Counties — as well as Detroit, Michigan.
Bahamas declared its independence from the United Kingdom in July 10, 1973, ending 325 years of British rule. Wilson, like thousands of others in South Florida, is a descendant of Bahamians. The state’s 24th Congressional District representative, who represents parts of Miami-Dade and south Broward counties, is also the first and only Bahamian-American to serve in Congress.
Wilson told the crowd at Carnival Celebration’s dining hall that there was no better time to announce the program’s expansion that during Bahamas’ anniversary celebration. The mentorship program is expected to start in Nassau, the nation’s capital, in September of 2024 with over 50 students.
“The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project continues to grow and now we are international!” Wilson said.
The congresswoman told the Miami Herald that the Bahamas has many of the same social problems affecting teens in Florida.
“They have the same problems we have in the United States, with boys, specifically Black boys, dropping out and not completing their education,” Wilson said. “In our Historically Black Colleges and Universities here, in America, the population is 70% girls.”
Wilson said that Bahamian Prime Minister Philip Davis first approached her with the idea of going international following his own experience as a mentor in the program. In a previous conversation with Wilson, he referenced a quote attributed to U.S. orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
“We want this in the Bahamas,” Davis told Wilson at the time.
Levine-Cava told the Herald she was elated with the announcement, noting that many county workers have been mentors or have graduated from the program. She said Wilson has been working hard for decades to take the mentorship project to the next level.
“It’s dream come true,” Wilson said.