Elizabeth Santiago, Senior Director of Programs
June 24th, 2016
Posted In: In Real Life
When MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR)’s team sat down to discuss developing a companion guide to the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring, 4th Edition™ (Elements) for boys and young men of color (BYMOC), we started with the why. Why do we need to develop a supplemental guide for mentoring BYMOC? Shouldn’t the same principles of mentoring apply regardless of the race, culture or ethnicity of the mentee?
Yes, the same principles of effective mentoring should apply regardless, but, ultimately for us it boiled down to how BYMOC have access to opportunity within our society and the unique challenges they may face. As representatives of mission-driven organizations serving youth, mentoring practitioners cannot ignore the ways in which youth of color, in particular BYMOC, are at a disadvantage because of systemic inequities and racial biases. Systemic disadvantages show up early for BYMOC especially when there are zero tolerance policies in schools and hypervigilant and unbending policing practices that impact BYMOC unequally. These issues can interrupt or completely stall opportunity for our young people. Having a companion guide to the Elements helps us support the field by providing some key ways we can mentor and support BYMOC.
We released the Guide to Mentoring Boys and Young Men of Color (Guide) in collaboration with the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance in May to support a congressional briefing sponsored by MENTOR and My Brother’s Keeper. Now, we are promoting the Guide more widely to ensure its use and to open up the doors to even more discussion and reflection. The Guide is affectionately called a “labor of love” because we are passionate about the topic and have enlisted some key external partners in making sure the Guide felt authentic, representative of the field and representative of the limited, although growing, body of research.
The Guide focuses on some of the specific issues faced by BYMOC and what mentors and mentoring programs can do to support them. The Guide discusses working with a young person from a position of strength versus from a deficits perspective. In other words, we know many of the challenges faced by BYMOC and some of the disparities, but we often overlook the strengths these young men bring to the table. We discuss how mentors should have a social justice mindset. By that we mean that mentors should have a true understanding of how young men of color are situated in our society. They are often oppressed and misunderstand and we can elevate feelings of self-worth and, ultimately, empowerment if we believe that is possible and necessary.
We worked closely with Dr. Torie Weiston, the executive director of the Mentoring Action Network in CA and a leader in cultural competence and critical mentoring, to flesh out the concept of critical mentoring. Critical mentoring is focused on the development of a critical consciousness in mentors and mentees. Critical consciousness is the ability to perceive and understand social, political, and economic oppression; to be able to deal with such issues; and to be ready to take action against oppressive elements of society. We need to provide ways for our young people to take control of their situation by understanding what oppression and repression looks like and have an active and healthy way of addressing these issues.
The Guide follows the benchmarks of the Elements, so contains a section related to each one of the Standards and Benchmarks in the Elements. We spend the most time in the Training standard because programs need to be equipped to train mentors in these concepts and support them with more training throughout the match.
We present the Guide in the hope of starting a discussion about mentoring BYMOC. We also want to create other companion guides, perhaps one for girls of color who are often an overlooked group in the current public dialogue. Take a look at the Guide and share any comments, thoughts and ideas for future projects on social media using #MBKAGuide!