While serving on the School Board of Miami-Dade County, FL, Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson noticed a pattern of young minority boys either being incarcerated, entering the drug trade, or dropping out of school. Not willing to sit back and allow society and poverty to destroy the lives of our children, Wilson began to challenge the men of Miami-Dade County to intervene in the lives of “at-risk” youth. Thus, in March 1993, initiated by the School Board of Miami-Dade County, the 500 African American Male Role Models of Excellence was born. Wilson’s vision gained immediate response from the community and continues to serve as a major force in the transition of raising young boys to become men.
In its first year, the 500 African American Male Role Models of Excellence began to receive acclaim on the national scene being featured on “The Les Brown Show.” This exposure attracted many prominent Americans to become involved with the program. The list includes: United States Presidents: Barack Obama; Bill Clinton; George W. Bush; Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford; Vice President Al Gore; First Lady Hillary Clinton; Gen. Colin Powell; Governor Charlie Crist; Governor Jeb Bush; Lt. Gov. Buddy McKay; Senators Bob Graham and Bill Nelson; Celebrities: Danny Glover; Omari Hardwick; Malik Yoba; Charles “Roc” Dutton; Tommy Ford; Christopher “Play” Martin; JoMarie Payton; Tom Joyner; Tavis Smiley; Montel Williams; Harry Belafonte; and Dr. Bobby Jones; Singers: Gladys Knight; Eric Benet; Lou Rawls; and Betty Wright; Astronauts: Winston Scott and Charles Bolden; Authors: Jawanza Kunjufu; Leonard Pitts; Nathan McCall; Dr. Leah Tutu; Maya Angelou; James McBride; Dr. Randall Pinkett; and Dr. Alvin Poussaint; Sports Stars: Lestar Jean – Houston Texans; Udonis Haslem – Miami Heat; retired NBA players: Alonzo Mourning; Shaquille O’Neal; Billy Thompson; Irvin Thomas; and Isiah Thomas; retired NFL players: Oronde Gadsden; Keith Jackson; and Hall of Famer Jim Brown; Champion Golfer Tiger Woods; Activists: Rev Al Sharpton; Martin Luther King, III and Rev. Jessie Jackson.
In 1994, the name was changed to the 500 Role Models of Excellence Project. Given the increased enrollment of mentors and students it is now recognized as the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project. Adult Role Model men are trained to salvage “at-risk” youth, who are considered candidates for society’s endangered species list. Young males ages 9-19 are paired with successful professional adult volunteers, who provide advice, guidance and educational assistance.
The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project continues to skyrocket as it has received numerous awards and accolades, including recognized by President Barack Obamas’ “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative as a flagship program (2014), The Links, Incorporated Southern Area Services to Youth Award (2013), National Medical Association’s Scroll of Merit Award (2008), Florida’s First Union Kid’s Count Award (1998), Florida’s Promise to Youth Award (1998), and M-DCPS Board Magna National Award (1998), A Program That Works (2007), President’s Summit for America’s Future Teaching Example for the Nation (1997), HBO Worldwide Commercial (1997), National Conference of Black Mayors, The Bold and Blood Award Pennsylvania Legislature (1995), and Emmy Award National Black Journalist (1995). Congresswoman Wilson and the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project have also appeared on CBS Evening News, CBS This Morning, The Jerry Springer’s Crime Prevention Show, and in a (HBO)Documentary.
Presently, the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project services 105 schools within Miami-Dade County Public Schools (37 Elementary, 35 Middle/K-8, and 33 Senior High). It has more than 8,000 participants, over 6,000 volunteers, and continues to grow. More than 30 components constitute the program as it teaches young boys about healthy living, responsibility, respect, and how to attain their future goals. The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project's Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Scholarship Breakfast provides thousands of Role Model boys with scholarship funds to further their education.
The mission of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project is to give minority boys hope, as well as the vision of greatness to emulate in their everyday lives, and has formed a fraternal aura of brotherly love throughout Miami-Dade County, WHICH WILL SOON SPREAD ACROSS THE NATION.
"It takes an entire village to 'educate' one child”. – adapted from an African Proverb
We believe the entire community must be involved in the process of changing the direction of our youth.
Each minority male student will graduate from high school, go to college, vocational school or the military and be positioned to become a contributing and self-sustaining member of society.
Founded by then Miami-Dade County School Board Member Frederica S. Wilson, now a member of the United States Congress, the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project was initiated by the Miami-Dade County School Board in March 1993, due to the realization thatthere is an ongoing crisis in the lives of many young males. The project’s mission is to intervene in the lives of at-risk boys, in order to provide them with alternatives that will lead them away from a life of crime and violence.
In these times, many men are banished from the American economy and faced with choosing the drug market for survival (Essence, 1994), which increases violence in schools and society in general. Many of the former school fistfights are now gunfights. A large part of this escalation is because parents are not taking responsibility for their children’s actions and because positive male role models are absent. We agree, society should insist that parents be held accountable for their children’s actions and education. But who will assume responsibility for the “at-risk” youngsters, who have no parents or positive role models in their lives?
The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project is dedicated to providing the support necessary to reclaim our youth. Adult male Role Models are trained to salvage the “at-risk” boys, who may be considered as candidates for society’s endangered species list. If any natural resource is threatened, our nation instantly initiates strategies or programs to save that resource. Florida panthers, sequoia redwood forests, buffaloes, whales, wolves, manatees, and bald eagles are all prime examples. According to statistics, the minority male child is an endangered species. Therefore, it is imperative that we counter this threatened extinction with programs of prevention, development, and acceleration. Ponder the question . . . what is more important for our government to save . . . forests, animals, or men? Our answer must be pro-active and vigilant, for we are running out of time.
Our goal is to instill, in the youth of Miami-Dade County, the values of mainstream America, while respecting the existing values of the individual. The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project focuses on three general principles:
1. Pinpoint progressive and successful men in our community to emulate;
2. Promote positive alternatives to self-destructive behaviors an societal pitfalls;
3. Everyone must assume responsibilities, preparing our youth for the challenges and struggles in today’s society.
Our goals are designed to ensure that the youth of Miami-Dade County are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and experiences that will able them to thrive in mainstream America, while instilling in them self-confidence and self-respect.
Goal #1: Place at-risk boys in supportive relationships with positive and successful men in the community who they can emulate.
Goal #2: Systematically educate program participants about the consequences of succumbing to societal pitfalls and expose them to positive alternatives to self-destructive behaviors.
Goal #3: Provide a program infrastructure that will empower adult community Role Models to assume responsibility for preparing young men to effectively deal with the challenges and struggles that threaten their success.