Thursday, July 12, 2007

I'm a mentor, she's a mentor, he's a mentor, we're all mentors, wouldn't you like to be a mentor too?

The Leadership Academy has a wonderful way for people to step up and do their part in improving Memphis. The Academy is currently searching for people to serve as mentors.

According to the Leadership Academy's website, "young people with mentors are:

· 52% less likely than peers to skip school
· 46% less likely than peers to start using drugs
· 27% less likely than peers to start drinking
· 33% less likely than peers to get into fights

Mentored youth in Shelby County:

· 73% raised goals and expectations
· 87% went to college or planned to

(Statistics provided by the Memphis Mentoring Partnership & National Mentoring Partnership, 2006)."

Now, those statistics alone should make you want to stop what you're doing and to sign up for the mentoring program right now. So, contact Douglas Scarboro, Director of Community Engagement, at 901-527-4625 ext 14 or for more information about this wonderful opportunity. When you sign up, you will be paired with one of the following organizations:

· Boys and Girls Clubs of Memphis - Make a strong connection with a child by mentoring one-on-one using the BGCM curriculum at one of their sites located throughout the city. Mentors interact for two hours a month with Boys and Girls Clubs members.

· Connect—Memphis City Schools (MCS) - Make an impact on a MCS student during the school day! Connect offers supervised one-on-one mentoring with an individual child during the school day. Mentors serve once a week for at least an hour each time.

· The Exchange Club - Assist with C.A.M.P. (Comprehensive Anger
Management Program)
where children learn social skills that enable them to form and maintain healthy relationships. Mentors work with children for 1-2 hours a week for 12 weeks.

· Memphis Athletic Ministries - Ever wanted to coach where winning is not the main goal? Be a coach for a MAM basketball, golf or soccer team! Practice once a week and play on Saturday with Memphis’ future stars.

· Youth Villages - This is your opportunity to become a child’s reason to smile! Mentors meet with children two to four times a month over a six month period. Influence a child’s perspective by showing them Memphis through your eyes!


Leo said...

Thank you for posting these. I think one impediment to people joining up as mentors is less the "I don't have time" argument-as people will find time for whatever is important to them-but rather a disconnection from the youth who need mentors. WMC-tv featured an hour long show last week devoted to mentoring and the success stories. I was in the audience and while I am thankful the channel's producers and anchors wanted to champion this cause, the way they framed the youth and some of the adults with stories and images of the hood, violence, drugs, even cinematography using dark images and police lights-all this contributes to and reinforces stereotypes of black youth as thugs and gangsters. This alienates other races and classes who might otherwise be interested in becoming a mentor. Discussing success stories of those who made it out is inspiring, but also may cause people to revert back to the American belief of pulling oneself up by their bootstraps. If that kid made it out of the hood, then why can't the rest of them? This again causes people to disconnect from the problems. How do we talk about the problems, yet not cause people to think, "that doesn't look like where I live. Those youth don't go to school with my kid. Why should this concern me?"
So, HOW do we talk about these issues in a positive way that people from all races and clases see how they are connected?

Tomeka Hart said...

Great observation Leo! I didn't catch all of the WMCTV panel, but I am aware that a lot of people have a negative perception of our youth. Many do believe that they are all--well most of them--are wayward thugs with no dreams, no discipline and often violent. That is simply not the case. You asked a great question--how do we change that perception?

I can offer this--I am the beneficiary of the guidance of a great mentor. I grew up in a working-poor family (didn't know I was poor until I left Memphis for college, but I digress) and I am a first generation college student. My parents always wanted the best for me, but they couldn't really tell me about college because that was not part of their story. When I was a freshman at Georgian Hills Jr. High, I participated in a job shadowing program and was paired with an African-American woman who worked in marketing at DuPont. I shadowed her for a day and was amazed at what I saw in her. For the first time in my life I saw a black female working in a high-level position in corporate America. I was so impressed and encourged, I decided that one day I was going to be just like her. I later became her baby-sitter and was able to spend a lot of time with her. I learned so much from my mentor. Don't get me wrong, my parents were and are very loving, caring and hard working--but they could not teach/show me some of the things she could/did. My life was changed by that experience--by simply being able to spend time with her. That experience guided me in developing the plan as to who I would be when I grew up.

That is what mentoring is all about. It's about being a positive role model for youth who may not have an opportunity to spend time with someone with your background and experiences. It's about exposing youth to various things and helping them to see their full potential. While I was counted among the "at-risk and disadvantaged" youth (I'm glad I didn't know this when I was growing up), I certainly was not a wayward thug. However, one wouldn't know that unless they gave me a chance. I am so glad someone stepped up and gave me that chance.

Thanks for you post--you make an excellent point.