By Ayana N. Harry ‘06
In response to dissatisfaction with several areas of campus life, Shena Elrington '04, Ayana Harry '06, Brittani Kirkpatrick '05 and Brandon Nicholson '05 formed the Committee for the Improvement for African American Life at Princeton University in September of 2002. The committee operated during the 2002 - 2003 academic year under the Black Student Union to help explore, articulate and address the unique social and academic concerns of Black undergraduates at Princeton.
The hallmark of the 2002 - 2003 year for the committee was the facilitation of The Town Hall Meeting on African American Life at Princeton University. Held in Liberation Hall of the Carl A. Fields Center on November 19, 2002, the meeting was attended by over 200 people including undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, alumni and concerned community members. BSU advisors, Professor Eddie Glaude, Professor Cornel West and former Director of the Fields Center, Heddye Ducree, attended the discussion. The committee also conducted a survey of students present at the Town Hall Meeting. The surveys were written and analyzed in conjunction with several professors from the Sociology Department, including Professor Howard Taylor. During the discussion and in the surveys, Black students often expressed a lack of communication between upperclassmen and freshman. Several students recounted difficulty identifying university resources and making connections with other students during their freshman year.
After the town hall meeting, the committee began meeting regularly amongst themselves and with several administrators to find substantive solutions for several of the concerns articulated at the meeting and in the surveys. The committee met with University administrators and groups including President Shirley Tilghman, Vice President Janet Dickerson, former Associate Provost Joann Mitchell, The Council of the Princeton University Community, The Undergraduate Life Committee, and the Priorities Committee of the University. During the course of the year, as the committee began their series of meetings the idea for a mentoring program developed.
After further developing the idea for a mentoring program, the committee began meeting with Vice President Dickerson, Heddye Ducree, Steve Lesititon of Mathey College, Patricia Armstrong of the Center for Teaching and Learning, Dominique Reese '06 and Olatokunbo Famakinwa '05 to expand what was to later become the LAMP program. The program was developed over a series of meetings to include, one-on-one mentoring, a family group structure and activities such as group outings, workshops and study breaks.
The program was launched in September of 2003. Olatokunbo Famakinwa '05 was the head coordinator and Dominique Reese '06 served as a second coordinator. The first official LAMP activity was a skating trip to Kendall Park, which served as a time for mentors and mentees to meet each other. Throughout the 2003 - 2004 academic year, the program had several activities including workshops with the Center for Teaching and learning, the publication of a regular newsletter, and regular study breaks.
LAMP continued its success during the 2004 - 2005 school year. Dominique Reese '06 became the head coordinator and Tarik Jones '07 worked as the second coordinator. The LAMP coordinators helped organized a trip to Kendall Park early in the school year. In December of 2004, LAMP co-sponsored Cabaret, the annual winter formal hosted by the Carl A. Fields Center. During the Spring semester, LAMP hosted a Faculty-Student Luncheon which brought together undergraduates with several faculty members in departments across the university for an afternoon of discussion about courses and independent research. LAMP mentors and mentees also participated in several study breaks, including a highly successful Popeye's study break which brought out dozens of students. LAMP continued to build their strong relationship with the Office of the Vice President of Campus Life and the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding during this year.
In the 2005 – 2006 school year, Tarik Jones ’07 served as head coordinator while Anna Almore ’08 worked as the second coordinator. By this point, LAMP had become a staple organization within the Black community at Princeton, with its annual events and continued success in pairing up first-year students with the upperclassmen members. Both coordinators worked tirelessly to ensure the growth of LAMP, while remaining committed to supporting each individual within program. Members often received personal, weekly emails from the coordinators checking in on their busy schedules and offering assistance as needed. The highly anticipated Departing Words Ceremony was also started during this school year, as a way for the departing seniors to impart words of wisdom about their Princeton experience to the remaining undergraduates.