An American tragedy is that one in three young people in America will reach their 18th Birthday without ever having a mentor. An even bigger tragedy is that there are people of color who are enrolled in colleges across the United States who have the power to change this harrowing statistic but do not.
Growing up in Philadelphia I was exposed to the heartbreaking news that another young person was a victim of gun violence or the perpetrator of a violent crime. While I studied at the Millersville University of Pennsylvania, I became a first-year experience mentor simply because I knew the positive impact I could have on a person's life... I was lucky.
I was lucky because growing up my mother and I searched ardently for a mentor for my younger brother and me.
Working in the non-profit industry and as a program director, I've had my fair share of screening mentors.
A common factor that I found in those interested in becoming a mentor and those who were inconsistent in their mentoring activities were each person's childhood experiences. I found through careful analysis that each of my mentors who had a mentoring relationship with a trusted adult while growing up was most likely to be a dedicated mentor while apart of our program. Those college students who did not have a mentor didn't quite grasp the importance of being consistent with their mentoring sessions and in some cases even showing up to meet with their mentee.
1 in 3 young people in America will grow up without a mentor.
Earlier this week I received a text from a friend who attends Morehouse College. As we texted about the god-awful week of finals, we discussed our future aspirations as political figures in both the judicial and legislative sectors of government. We discussed law schools and he asked me if I recommended Temple Law.
I responded that I did. My explanation was that Temple is at the epicenter of many of our nation's primary social justice issues. Urban planning, gentrification, public safety, and socioeconomic inequality are big in Lower North Philadelphia. Even more apparent in our community and city are issues dealing with juvenile justice and low resourced community schools.
The school to prison pipeline is a real thing and so are our children living their lives without anyone caring for them. We should know that our nation's teachers are bombarded with problems ranging from unequal pay, administrative pressure, and straight out ill-preparedness for the career of teaching.
Many of our nation's teachers are white women and a large majority of students in our slums are black and brown. Even more disturbing is that our students are faced with an opportunity gap as wide as the distance between the United States Atlantic shores and West Africa.
"Sadly enough, there are teenagers killing other teenagers in our city."
Sadly, there are teenagers killing other teenagers in our city. This is a known fact and it happens quite frequently. So, what are we to do?
Part of our solution is providing our students with group mentoring sessions twice a month. These conversations are usually called Man-Up and SALT Conversations and during these discussions, we talk with our teen boys and girls about respect, positive and edifying relationships, conflict resolution, and professionalism. We want our youth to know that there are young adults in their community that care for them.
Care goes a long way and in return you get respect. When I heard about the sixteen-year-old who gunned down two of his high school-aged contemporaries in South Philly I was appalled.
I felt like there were adults that failed that sixteen-year-old. That's why conversations like the ones we hold on a bi-monthly basis with our young men and women are crucial. It's important that we teach our young men and women conflict resolution.
In addition, many black and brown students are not performing at their full academic potentials. Achievement and climate statistics show that our students are drowning in school environments destined for them to fail. Even worse is that some college students in neighboring schools don't find it necessary to get involved in being apart of the solution. Mentoring in our community is crucial. The future of our community lies in the positive that we as positive young adults have with our children. They are those same relationships that cultivate each mentee's sense of self-esteem, importance, and worth. When they see you doing it, they believe they can too.
Activism goes beyond the leading of marches, paid governmental positions, and social media coverage. Activism is being active in social change, and supporting and advocating for someone who cannot advocate for themselves.
If there is one thing that I've learned is that caring for someone else is natural to a human being. It doesn't take a genius or college degree to make a difference. In fact, college students of color have reached a level of success that many of their peers in the hood can only dream of.
Mentorship saves lives, cultivates greatness, and can steer a young
person on the road to greatness. More mentors are needed in our city, especially college students of color. As a fellow college student of color, I challenge you to invest in obtaining clearances and dedicate an hour or two a week for a school year. Don't worry about getting paid and understand that mentorship has a powerful impact. By pledging to become a mentor you can inspire a young person to go to college, help strengthen the relationship they have with their parents, and or steer them on a path away from crime and drugs. I know that mentorship makes a difference in children's lives because it sure did save mine.