EDGEWOOD, Md. – APG Soldiers and civilians are making a difference in the lives of local students by serving as mentors in the Kenneth V. Hilton Mentorship Program at Edgewood High School.
The program began in the 1990s to provide mentors and role models for African-American male students enrolled in Edgewood High School. The mentors are primarily African-American males from APG tenant organizations including the U.S. Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity, or AMSAA, and the U.S. Army Evaluation Center, or AEC.
The sessions are typically held once a month, and mentors lead discussions on topics like health, investing, conflict resolution, work ethic, leadership, time management and public speaking. About 25 to 30 students voluntarily attend the sessions.
Eric Johnson, a computer scientist with AMSAA, has served as mentor with the Kenneth V. Hilton Mentorship Program for 18 years.
“It’s good to give students a model of what they could potentially become and to give them guidance about some of the issues or life challenges they might face,” he said. “I had a mentor myself, so I saw the benefits of having someone who is older, someone more experienced provide guidance.”
Johnson said his mentor inspired him to read, and he is now a “voracious reader.” His goal, he said, is to challenge the students to read to expand their general knowledge of the world.
“We [mentors] feel like the more you read, the more information you will have at your disposal and the more successful you will be in life,” he said.
Tony Harris, an electrical engineer with AMSAA, co-leads the program with Johnson and has volunteered with EHS since 2006. Harris is a graduate of EHS and participated in the Kenneth V. Hilton Mentorship Program as a mentee from 1995 to 1999.
The program helped him “tremendously,” he said.
“What really helped me was seeing other black men who looked like me, being successful and doing something very positive in their community, giving time back,” he said. “That was a big, big thing.”
At the end of the year, the mentors take the students on a field trip to Morgan State University, a historically black college in Baltimore.
“I just want inspire young African-American men so they can see their own potential and see the things they want to accomplish in their life,” said Harris, who is a Morgan State University alumni.
Impact on EHS students
EHS Junior Jody Skaggs called the sessions “informative.” His goal is to attend law school, so he is interested in developing good study habits and time management skills, he said.
“I really do like the program, I think it’s really good what they are doing of all of us,” he said. “Some people in [the program] don’t have fathers, so having someone we can fall back on is nice.”
Freshman Kyle Brown said he is planning for life after high school.
“You got to focus on what is going to help you be successful,” he said. “You got to get your work done, you can’t slack in school, school always comes first, and you got to provide for your family.”
EHS Principal Kilo Mack said the program provides “positive relationships.”
“It’s nice to have folks in the community that can guide them down that [right] path, because of their life experiences,” he said.
History of the program
Claudia Sconion, who founded the program in the 1990s, said she identified a need for positive role models, especially among African-American males, while she was serving as an EHS business teacher.
She coordinated with leadership from AMSAA, who helped recruit Soldiers and civilians to serve as role models. Sconion, who is now retired, said she is grateful to those who volunteer their time to help the students.
“The mentors take pride in serving, tutoring, counseling and encouraging these young guys on a regular basis,” she said.
According to Sconion, the program is named after Kenneth V. Hilton, one of the first mentors from the APG community, who was an AMSAA civilian at the time.
“He was very dedicated to the program,” she said.