Jestine Dennard

Daily Point of Light # 1103 Apr 27, 1998

Co-founder of the Adopt-A-Role Model (ARM) program, Jestine Dennard has openly dedicated her life to ensure that local disadvantaged youth have the kind of support they need to rise above their circumstances and live productive, meaningful lives.

When Ms. Dennard and the other founder of ARM notices the increasingly drastic number of young, African-American boys who displayed negative behavior in the Macon community, they felt compelled to do something. They developed and implemented a plan in 1991 that would prove to be so successful that the waiting list of interested applicants would eventually be more than 600. ARM was created to link community leaders (role models) with deserving, yet distraught young boys (protégés).

ARM not only focuses on the individual well-being of its participants, it encompasses everything that influences their existence. With facets that train single, working mothers to rise above the welfare system, ARM also equips additional siblings with lessons in family responsibility. Ms. Dennard plans workshops for the mothers that focus on parenting, conflict resolution, stress management, nutrition and role-playing.

Ms. Dennard is the backbone of the successful ARM program. Some of her specific areas of involvement include planning educational and leisure activities monthly for the protégés and their role models. She wants them to gain exposure to a variety of activities, such as the arts, camping and college life.

For every anxious protégé entering the program, an equally excited role model is recruited. With a knack for pairing just the right combinations, Ms. Dennard stays on the mission to increase and maintain the number of role models. The role models have to make commitments to spending time each week with their protégés.

Ms. Dennard has also established a clothing bank and has received a commitment from a shoe store to donate $100 worth of shoes monthly to protégés who are less fortunate. This store also gives discounts to all protégés and their families who present an ARM I.D. card.

Ms. Dennard leaves no stone unturned. With the activities that she develops for the ARM program, she makes sure there is more than adequate funding to cover all aspects of her plans. Last year, McDonnell Douglas donated $30,000 to ARM's drug and alcohol prevention program, which teaches the boys alternative ways to "get high" through recreation and education.

Ms. Dennard uses every resource available and she realizes that media coverage is of great importance to the success of ARM. She keeps them abreast of activities and successes, giving the community a positive view of what can happen if, indeed, the entire village raises a child. Through advertising and news articles, Ms. Dennard recruits additional role models and proteges.

Ms. Dennard operates a florist shop and works for the Middle Georgia Black Pages.