Athletes Mentorship

Athletes Partake in Mentorship Program

Vernon Smith, Director of Educational Counseling and Leadership and Assistant Professor of education, Monmouth University Athletes, and the Big Brother Big Sisters of Monmouth and Middlesex Counties have partnered to form a Peer Mentorship program for students of Neptune High School.

Smith commented, “I’m just tired of seeing all the negatives about black males in the news and that’s not all we have to offer. Once I got here at Monmouth, I recognized that within Monmouth County and the community, we had young men of color, especially black males, who faced adversity and we want to make sure their surrounded by a strong support network.” 

Smith believes that this program will be beneficial based on the resources that Monmouth offers. “We have a lot of black males who are involved in athletics, the Equal Opportunity Fund (EOF) programs, and just solid students making a difference. How do we begin to at least give back to our community? I figured this is an important program that helps Monmouth students the importance of giving back and connecting with high school students encouraging them to move forward providing mentorship.”

With mentorship, Smith notes, it helps the mentors to grow, as well as the mentees. “It is a beautiful way to develop an empowering black male leadership opportunity,” he said.

Student Affairs and College Counseling Graduate student, Jihad Johnson, believes this program will allow individuals who come from disadvantage backgrounds to reach their highest potential. “For me coming in from the inner city knowing what it took for me to get here having positive mentors and people who generally cared about me and my future, really helped me get to this point to where I am even today. I think this program gives inner city children a vision.”

Johnson also believes that this program will increase the diversity at Monmouth as well. “Even for myself the first thing that they hear about Monmouth, besides the fact that it is a great school and by the beach, is that it’s predominantly white. For me that was one thing I was nervous about coming here, but because of programs such as EOF, I was able to come here and afford the university.”

Johnson added, “I think that this program will allow them (prospective students) to see that there are people of color on this campus doing great things, influence them to apply, go there, and feel comfortable.”

“I may be a person of color, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have the opportunity to do great things. It’s a mindset, it’s a mind game that test you at times…” he added.

Andrew Kirkland, Monmouth University linebackers’ coach, Andrew Kirkland, is looking forward for his players to give back by mentoring youth and bring a different light to this institution. “In general, I feel like there are not a lot of African Americans on this campus and, to some degree, I feel like we need to come together as a group.”

 Kirkland continued, “There are individuals who aren’t going to understand, and this is us showing were more than just athletes. We are more than just the color of our skin, and we’re people who want to make this place for us, as well as the next generation.” 

The mentorship program will begin on Tuesday, October 1 with  bi-weekly mentor group sessions held every other Tuesday from 11:15a.m.-12:45p.m. with a lunch and networking session. Following lunch, empowerment group sessions will be he in Edison Hall Room 201. The Big Brother Big Sisters of Monmouth and Middlesex Counties are currently in the process of interviewing for 25 mentors and 25 mentees.  For more information or how you can get involved please feel free to reach out to Dr. Vernon Smith, Director at or Dr. Jason Branch, Co-Director at

PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University