Rutgers students take fifth-graders on campus tour
A community service club at Rutgers dedicates itself to cultural education and community service by mentoring elementary school students.
The Rutgers Wanawake Club mentors girls in fifth grade at Parsons Elementary School in North Brunswick.
“(They were told) they might not make it to college,” said Ndeye Gueye, former president of the Wanawake club and a Edward J. Bloustein School of Public Health senior.
Not only do students mentor the grade school children, but also play games and "teach them life lessons," said Stephanie Ohiri, vice president of the club.
The School of Arts and Sciences junior said the club took the girls on a tour of Rutgers. The mentees experienced what it was like to be a college student, walking through Mason Gross, the Mabel Smith Douglass library and a dining hall.
“At the end, they were like, ‘I’m really excited to go to college now,’” Ohiri said. “It was very heartwarming.”
The group aims to provide “a sense of belonging,” Gueye said.
The club meets on weekly basis and holds a topic-based discussion with its members. Two members of the executive board are responsible for leading the discussion.
The topics range from stresses in relationships to issues within the black community to feminism.
“It’s usually stuff that’s relatable to us, so it’s easy to talk about because it’s something that’s on people’s minds,” Gueye said.
People often have opinions they want to voice out, so anyone is free to say anything they want and ask questions about whatever they want, she said.
“I think that’s why we get people to come back 'cause it’s so free, so open. You can say what you want and not feel pressured that you’ll be judged,” said Wanawake president and School of Arts and Sciences junior Sopuru Ezeonu.
The meetings may also feature trivia, games or a movie and planning for two events in the fall and spring semesters.
In the fall, the club hosts the Mr. and Ms. Africa pageant. Four females and four males compete to win the title.
Members of the executive board hold tryouts for the pageant participants. A committee of judges is selected for the pageant.
“The pageant is supposed to be a way for us to find someone who overall represents our mission and represents what we stand for,” Gueye said.
The winner usually does community service and receives good grades, as well as being a good representation of the club’s ideals, she said.
In the spring, the club hosts the Black Dynasty Banquet. This event features food, performances and is meant to recognize a member of the Rutgers community who might not have otherwise been recognized, Gueye said.
The club is working to have a larger presence on campus, Ezeonu said.
“We’re still trying to get our name out there … Our name has definitely become more known in the Rutgers community, but it’s still an issue,” Ezeonu said. “People will still ask ‘What is Wanawake?'"
Ezeonu said this club was important to her to develop leadership skills and because it forced her to speak her mind.
“I knew that this was an organization that I wanted to join when I came to Rutgers,” she said. “It pushed me to open up myself.”
Unity is also important to the club, Gueye said.
“I feel like now, with everything that’s going on in the media, in the news people want to be united to make a difference," Gueye said. "So when we have these kind of meetings where we’re talking about what’s going on we’re more proactive now and more like aware of what’s actually happening … So it’s definitely united us in that sense.”
Faith Hoatson is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in linguistics and French literature. She is a correspondent for The Daily Targum.