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Local Voices: Mentoring Programs For Young African-American Males and Others

According to prominent mentoring programs such as the Harvard Mentoring Project, National Mentoring Partnership, Corporation for National and Community Service, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, there are over 20 million young people in America who are in dire need of mentors and/or role models. These youth need help in improving their school success, daily living responsibilities, and achieving career goals.

According to the aforementioned national mentoring programs and other related research and studies, mentoring helps young people in several ways:

• School – improving attendance, increasing chances for higher education, enhancing overall attitudes toward education, and the like.

• Daily Life – providing youths with caring adults who can give support and guidance. Young people who are mentored are more likely to be crime-free, not use illegal substances, and more apt to get along with peers, family members, and authority figures.

• Career – assisting youths with information and facilitation in finding jobs, obtaining internships, and setting career goals.

I have been a mentor for at-risk youths and disadvantaged families for over three decades. And, I know that mentoring works not only for the young person, but for the adults as well. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently stated, “Not everyone can be great, but everyone can serve.” As such, mentoring is the epitome of a “helping relationship,” by which one person (mentor) enables another person (mentee) to ameliorate self. As the sage saying goes: “No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child(ren).”

As mentors, we must get our mentees to practice self-discipline and prioritize certain goals in life: (1) finish at least high school; (2) remain drug and crime-free; (3) get a job(s); (4) become adults and get married before having children; (5) remain positive and plan for the future.

In this abbreviated writing, I shall focus on young African-American males. Over the years, I have found these particular youths to be more at risk and disadvantaged in today’s society. However, the principles, practices and proposals are apropos and generic for all youth who need help with mentoring, and can be applied accordingly.

Too many of these alienated and uncommitted youth display a profound lack of self-esteem, and self-control. They show an abundance of anger, boredom, frustration and disrespect. They lack a sense of direction and purpose. They need to learn to perform and achieve at their maximum capacity. In short, they need to acquire self-discipline and personal priorities. Most of all, they need to be inspired and motivated by the words and philosophy of Dr. King: “If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

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Basically, the eradication of the “root causes” and “reasons why” can be accomplished by focusing upon the amelioration of three vital areas: (1) self-discipline and personal priorities; (2) family stability and community empowerment; and (3) education and job skills.

Accordingly, I offer the following curriculum overview and training outline:
• Self Respect
• Respect for Others
• Values
• Motivation
• Attitude/Personality
• Individual Responsibility/Accountability
• Goal Setting and Life Planning
• Personal Health and Wellness
• Anger and Stress Management
• Conflict Resolution
• Managing Diversity
• African-American History and Cultural Enrichment
• Race Relations
• Male-Female Relations
• Effective Communication Skills
• Active Listening Skills
• Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities
• Substance Abuse Information and Education
• Remedial Education/Basic Literacy Skills (Educational Assessment; Relapse and Dropout Prevention; Educational Alternatives; etc.)
• Job and Survival Skills (Vocational Assessment; Aptitude and Attitude; Work Ethic; How to Find Jobs; How to Apply for Jobs; How to Organize and Obtain Important Job-Related Papers; How to Write a Resume; How to Interview; How to Follow-up; etc.)

Some of these topics/subjects – goal setting and life planning, remedial education/basic literacy skills, job and survival skills, and the like – might be more age-appropriate for youths, 14 years and older. Also, this same curriculum could be used for adult males of 21 years and older.

John L. Horton is a resident of Norfolk and a frequent contributor to this newspaper.

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