The Jenkins Family
Pamela is the mother of three girls: Trinity – age 16, Brenda – age 13, and Caren – age 4. As a lifelong resident of Melbourne’s Booker T. Washington neighborhood, Pamela’s daughters are growing up on the same streets and attending the same schools as Pamela: Creel Elementary, Johnson Junior High and Eau Gallie High School. However, the neighborhood looks much different than it did when Pamela was growing up. Prior to the building of the DOCK in 2007 and redevelopment of the block once called “The Bottoms”, into Greater Heights (a 2009 Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition project), violent crime was rampant. There were 500 to 700 police incidents occurring annually. Currently, the number of police incidents consistently falls under 200 per year.
Despite coming from what was a rough neighborhood, Pamela describes her teenage self as a “strong student who was academically gifted”. Her own mother was unable to raise her due to addiction, but Pamela grew up in the loving home of her Godparents and was looking forward to a bright future. Then at the age of 16, she became pregnant. As the result of an abusive relationship with the baby’s father, Pamela says that she lost respect for authority and turned toward a life of crime. When Trinity and Brenda were only 7 and 4, she went to prison. The girls were left to live with Pamela’s Godparents.
While Pamela was incarcerated, the leaders at the DOCK approached her Godparents to offer help with Trinity and Brenda. Those leaders were then DOCK Director Botavia Jackson, and Evelina Cruz, an aide who is still employed at the DOCK and a consistent role model, particularly for Trinity. Both Pamela and her Godparents credit the DOCK for supporting the academic and spiritual growth of the girls while their mom was away, and in the subsequent years when she was adjusting to
being home and growing into the role of motherhood. Pamela
says, “Evelina and Ms. Jackson stepped in when I could not be there”. Also, the DOCK did more than nurture her girls by providing for their material needs such as back to school supplies, Christmas gifts, and food during the holidays.
Today, Trevor Howard, DOCK Director since 2015, continues the programs that Pamela credits for Trinity and Brenda’s success in school and overall well-being. She especially appreciates his direct communication with the schools and tracking the girls’ grades. As a result of Trinity’s hard work and strong grades, she is participating in the DOCK scholarship program, where she and five of her peers are paired with mentors through their high school graduations. Upon graduating, each participant will be eligible to take advantage of a Florida Pre-Paid Scholarship. In the meantime, Trinity stays busy as a member of the JROTC and has a part time job during the school year with full-time employment lined up for the summer. Brenda is also thriving in school and Caren will begin attending the DOCK this Spring.
Pamela is currently employed at a nearby convenience store and hopes to pursue a career in graphics. She is a constant presence in her daughter’s lives and is becoming involved in the community. Recently, she dropped by our offices to talk about a problem she was having with the distance Brenda had to walk to school since moving to the junior high. With encouragement from the DOCK Director and others, she researched the rules governing when a school system is required to provide transportation. Her home was, indeed, outside the allowable limit. So, she advocated on behalf of her own kids and the other families in the neighborhood. Each morning a bus now arrives from the Brevard County Schools to transport our junior high students to school. Pamela is proud to be an advocate for herself, her family, and her community.
Jennifer began attending the DOCK during the summer of 2015 after her family moved to the neighborhood from Cocoa. She lives with her single mother, who also raises Jennifer’s three siblings, ages one, three and four years old. Jennifer’s mother does this while attending college to become a nurse (she will graduate this summer). There is not a male role model in their home and Jennifer does not know the whereabouts of her father. In addition to the challenges of her home life, Jennifer suffers from ADHD. This has had a negative effect on her school work, which was evident in her first quarter GPA of 1.8. Jennifer is in the 5th grade. The teacher’s comment was that Jennifer could be retained if unable to improve her performance in Reading and Math.
Jennifer’s adjustment to the culture of the DOCK was not without bumps in the road. She did not understand the culture of the organization, where respect for one another is emphasized. It was not surprising that her first quarter report card grade for “Respects and accepts authority” was a “N” (not demonstrated consistently).
The DOCK Director, Trevor Howard, along with two aides and volunteers, recognized her struggle both academically and with regard to conduct. While the programs at the DOCK are primarily
based in academics and character education, Mr. Howard has worked with Jennifer and her mother to provide extra support. She is on medication for ADHD and has been granted additional time for testing. Jennifer has also developed a special relationship with the DOCK aides and one particular volunteer.
It was an exciting day at the DOCK when students rushed in to show off their 2nd quarter report cards. 27% of attendees made the A/B honor roll, 35% improved their GPA, and with very few exceptions, conduct grades were Satisfactory and Outstanding. Jennifer stood out for making the most significant improvement. Her second quarter report card reflected her hard work. She had raised her grade point average from 1.8 to 3.4, placing her on the A/B honor roll! When asked how she made such significant improvement, Jennifer says that she worked so hard to get all her work done that she was “sweating by the end of the day”. Jennifer also says that she has learned to “play better” and has a better attitude.
Recently, Jennifer was elected by her peers as secretary of the DOCK Council; a student leadership group. She recently was charged with giving a tour to adult visitors and is looking forward to an upcoming bake sale to aid children in Haiti.
Tanya and her children resided in BNDC’s Greater Heights Apartments. “Greater Heights” isn’t just a description of her home, it’s appropriate for her life too!
Tanya had been reaching for greater heights in her career, and succeeded! When she moved into the neighborhood in 2009, Tanya was juggling a recent divorce, full-time work as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and care for her four children.
Her two younger children, Julie and James, became active at the DOCK. We enjoyed watching them grow. They were both “Jr Leaders” in the DOCK’s teen program. Their older siblings graduated from Eau Gallie High. Janet has served our country in the Navy, and during a visit, she spoke to the DOCK children about military life and about the importance of education. Alex is attending Eastern Florida State College, recently earned his AA, and is working towards a career in public safety.
The Greater Heights apartments are beautiful, Key West style duplexes and triplexes. Their below market rent rates make Greater Heights affordable for Tanya and for 17 other working families or seniors on fixed incomes.
Like Tanya, many families have been able to settle down and grow “roots” in the community. Because of their presence, this block has become an oasis of peace; a place where drug deals have been replaced with children playing and where neighbors support each other.
The affordability of Greater Heights also enabled Tanya to return to school. Hats off to her for passing her licensing exam! She is now a certified occupational therapist assistant in Tampa. The median salary range for COTAs is over twice what she was able to earn in the past!
Justin is a 17-year old sophomore at Eau Gallie High School. He loves his friends, family and football. Justin first came to the DOCK as an eight-year old who was struggling in school, but was determined to continue playing pee wee football with a local community organization. Justin’s mom threatened that if the grades did not improve, he would have to give up his favorite activity. As a resident of the Booker T. Washington neighborhood, Justin’s mom was aware of the DOCK and signed Justin up for the program. Justin recalls working with volunteers to improve his grades and making friends. A year later, Justin’s sister began attending the DOCK and a few years after that, their youngest sister also came at 5-years of age.
Justin continued to attend the DOCK and succeed in school until he was 13-years old. At that time, the DOCK was primarily a program for elementary aged children and Justin was drawn toward new friends who “hung out in the streets.” Justin readily admits that he was getting involved in negative activities, performing poorly in school, threatening his football career, and hurting his mom. This behavior continued until Justin was 15. Around that time, Trevor Howard, came on as DOCK Director.
Justin had a prior relationship with Mr. Howard through a Boys and Girls Club. Justin says that he “wanted to turn his life around” and Mr. Howard convinced him to come back to the DOCK.
Justin returned to familiar faces and many new faces as the teen population had started to develop. He says that the JAM (Jesus and Me) program “caught his eye” and that he instantly got involved in helping the younger kids with their homework. He also had the opportunity to complete his own work and increased the 2.0 he was barely earning to a 3.6 GPA of which he is currently proud!
Today, Justin’s good nature and infectious smile light up the DOCK for his two sisters (who still attend), the other youth, and volunteers. He has recruited several of his friends to join and is looking forward to the opening of the teen center in the Fall. Justin continues to love football and hopes to play at the collegiate level following high school graduation. Beyond college, he hopes to become a Physical Therapist.