Gasp! A flock of geese plunged over a handful of wide-eyed Mellon elementary school students on the University of North Florida campus in early December. It was one of many firsts for the 4th and 5th graders from Palatka, a Putnam County town that is an hour by car but a world away from UNF. Thanks to a grant from the Frank V. Oliver, Jr. Fund at The Community Foundation, the kids were in C.A.M.P. Osprey, a collegiate achievement mentoring program, founded and overseen by Dr. Matthew Ohlson at UNF. For weeks, the Mellon students had been video-chatting with their UNF counterparts, who encouraged them to ‘think big’ about their futures, and suggested strategies to help them succeed in college and the workforce. Now, they had a chance to meet their mentors in person on campus.
When their big day arrived, the Mellon students were ‘dressed for success’ courtesy of The Community Foundation and J.C. Penney. Dr. Ohlson, his colleagues and a member of the Swoop Squad led the way as the students and Mellon Principal Joe Theobold toured campus, ate lunch in the Osprey Café, and played in the UNF sports facilities.
“The CAMP Osprey experience is a ‘win-win’ opportunity for our collegiate mentors and their ‘mentees’ from Palatka,” said Dr. Ohlson.” The support from The Community Foundation brought these two ‘communities of leaders’ together and empowered them to learn strategies to become college and career ready.”
The students were excited to hear about STEM careers during a tour of the Biological Sciences building, but it was the personal connection to their mentors that they remembered most.
“My mentors gave me information I need,” young Azzareya Jackson said afterward. “I liked learning about leadership and setting goals by ‘beginning with the end in mind.’”
The C.A.M.P. Osprey experience was made possible by the legacy endowment Frank V. Oliver, Jr., a successful Palatka businessman who generously arranged to support organizations helping Putnam County citizens with issues of health, hunger, veterans’ services, education and poverty. The Community Foundation conducts competitive grantmaking on behalf of his fund each spring for grants to begin mid-year. For more information, contact MarkLeMaire@jaxcf.org.