On Sept. 15 at Crockett Middle School, participants in the Three Doctors Foundation Mentor Day 2018 witnessed the power of stories; stories people read, and stories people tell.
Dr. Jason Branch told a story about the year 2002. He had to leave the University of West Alabama for financial reasons; he owed the institution $8,000. He could have returned home to Dayton, Ohio, but, says Dr. Branch, “my uncle Greg Snow reminded me what potentially waited there for me: drugs, jail and maybe death.” So Branch moved into his uncle’s Florida home and found two full time jobs and a part time job in order to pay off his debt.
One job in particular—working at Gulf Coast Youth Services juvenile detention center—set him on a path which changed his life. “I worked the 11pm-7am shift,” recalled Dr. Branch, “and staying awake was a challenge.” He had already seen a co-worker fired for falling asleep on the job.
Describing himself as “not much of a reader,” he found a book in the detention center library titled The Pact. Written by Newark natives Sampson Davis, Rameck Hunt and George Jenkins, the book’s message resonated with Branch.
“Here were three guys from Newark who faced many of the same hardships I faced,” Branch said. “And they banded together and promised one another that they would become doctors.”
After reading the book, Branch reached out to two good friends from University of West Alabama, Taiwo Togun and Julian Magee. He told them about the book and encouraged them to read it as well. He told them he had earned the money to pay his debt to the university, and that the three of them should create a pact and help one another earn their doctoral degrees.
Togun and Magee were a bit ahead on the academic path, but this year, Jason Branch became Dr. Jason Branch when he earned his a doctorate in counselor education and supervision from Auburn University. He announced the achievement on Facebook and Instagram, crediting Davis, Hunt and Jenkins for the inspiration.
And in a circle of life moment, Branch found a job at Monmouth University in New Jersey. Someone saw his Facebook post, sent it to the Three Doctors Foundation, and the new Three Doctors agreed to come and help their role models mentor students for Mentor Day.
Nearly 300 students and about 80 mentors sat at tables sharing stories about interests and careers. Local mentors included Hamilton Township School Superintendent Scott Rocco and curriculum and instruction supervisor Anthony Scotto.
There were T-shirts (blue for mentors and yellow for mentees), raffles, time to take pictures together in a photo booth and food. The Three Doctors—Davis, Hunt and Jenkins—roamed the gym talking with students, taking pictures and enjoying the noise of the room. Five students won laptops; three were provided by the foundation and two were provided by the Hamilton Educational Foundation and the Crockett School PTA.
As students left, they were handed a backpack filled with school supplies and told the message of Mentor Day can continue.