State News

Bill would require undergrads to mentor

Posted June 4, 2008 3:40 p.m. EDT
Updated June 4, 2008 7:07 p.m. EDT

— The sole sponsor of a bill to require students enrolled at the state’s private and public colleges to mentor school-age children in order to receive a bachelor’s degree describes the program as a “domestic peace corps for education.”

Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, named the proposed community service program in memory of two college students who were shot to death earlier this year – Eve Carson, the student body president at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Abhijit Mahato, a Duke University graduate student.

“Society invests a huge amount of money in our young people in our universities. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say you ought to give a little back,” Rand said Wednesday.

The bill, filed last week, would require any student seeking a bachelor's degree to spend 20 hours per semester mentoring and tutoring a public school-age child. The bill doesn't specify for how many semesters the mentoring would be required.

The requirement would apply to private schools because it would be linked to grants that these colleges already receive from the state to help teach students who live in North Carolina.

“It would be a greater tragedy if something doesn’t come out of this and focus attention on what we can do to help our young people,” Rand said.

Laurence Lovette, who is charged with murder in both the slayings of Carson and Mahato, and Demario Atwater, who is accused in Carson's death, were both high school dropouts.

Rep. Paul Stam, D-Wake County, thinks the bill is unfeasible.

“We cannot inflict a 19-year-old with problems as a tutor for a 13-year-old,” Stam said.

Critics of the bill also have logistical concerns since the bill does not provide administrative funding or money for student transportation, if schools are not within walking distance of campus. The bill does set aside $230,000 next year to local school districts to coordinate with the program.

“This is just not appropriate for General Assembly to micromanage the universities,” Stam said.

Rand said he has spoken with university and college officials, including UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke, about the best way to implement this type of program. He said he is open to including more funding in the bill if college and university officials say it is necessary.

Andrew Berry, a junior at UNC, likes the idea of community service, but is not in favor of it as a graduation requirement.

“I don’t think you should have to be told what kind of community service you want to do,” Berry said.

Berry, who juggles a part-time job and volunteers at UNC Children’s Hospital, thinks a bill forcing people to do community service may not be the right idea.

“If you force somebody to do it, their hearts aren’t going to be into it,” Berry said.

Rand acknowledges details still need to be worked out, but feels the overall goal of mandating community service would greatly benefit society and should be worthy of consideration.

If approved, the bill would apply to incoming freshmen who would receive a bachelor's degree in 2012 and all students thereafter.