In Real Life Blog Series: Mentors Bring Out the Greatness Within

David Shapiro, CEO, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership
June 8th, 2017
Posted In: Corporate Engagement, Events

This June, we’re focusing on ways we can better support underserved populations through mentoring In Real Life! Throughout the month, we will be featuring content related to levels of ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, refugee status, and the role mentors can play in empowering young people who feel voiceless to speak with pride. Below, MENTOR CEO, David Shapiro, highlights how JPMorgan Chase & Co. and LinkedIn are leading efforts to better support boys and young men of color.

Originally featured on LinkedIn.

“Mentors don’t make you great. They help you find the greatness within.”

-TFI Alum Noah Morton

As Noah Morton, a young man who participated in JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s The Fellowship Initiative so poignantly stated, mentors don’t make kids great. Mentors help young people see the greatness and potential that exists inside of them. Mentors help unlock the doors that have either been unseen or even worse, closed too many times before.

Boys and young men of color often face more closed doors and steeper ladders to climb than any other group of young people. President Obama once painted a vivid picture in a My Brother’s Keeper meeting that really solidified this reality for me. He described a group of young people in this country who are riding on a six-lane highway with guardrails — they can make wrong turns, course correct, and there is always a destination in sight and momentum at their back. Then, there is another set of young people driving on a one lane, dirt road with a ravine on either side, where one false move could be detrimental.  

Mentors seek to widen that road. They can put up guardrails and help create conditions in which a young person can thrive and strive. For young men of color, too many of whom have come face-to-face with violence and unimaginable levels of trauma, mentors are especially important in helping them process these experiences by providing a space to express their emotions and get help navigating their journey. Mentors can help them discover assets, process setbacks, and chart a course for the future – they can become powerful allies.

Connecting Communities to Empower Young Men of Color

MENTOR, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase & Co., recently created two new resources around supporting young men of color in the face of the violence and trauma, as well as assisting them to become college and career ready. We felt it was equally as important to create these resources as it was to share our findings and engage with the many stakeholders who are critical to advancing opportunities for young people more systemically. We traveled to Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City, and with the leadership of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and LinkedIn, gathered representatives from companies, foundations, nonprofits, school districts, and local governments to both celebrate successes and identify opportunities to focus our collective efforts to better meet the mentoring needs of our young people.

In conjunction with these efforts, MENTOR has leveraged the findings and experience of researchers, program leaders, young people, and mentors who are on the frontlines in order to create a suite of resources around supporting young men of color:

  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. Reports: 1) Supporting Young People in the Wake of Violence and Trauma and 2) Finding the Greatness Within
  •  A webinar series co-hosted with My Brother’s Keeper Alliance for mentoring practitioners to help expand their consciousness, competencies, and tools when engaging and working with boys and young men of color.
  •  A guide highlighting proven practices focused specifically on implementing mentoring programs through the lens of racial equity.
  • A literature review, conducted by Bernadette Sánchez, Ph.D. of DePaul University, focusing on both volunteer mentoring programs and informal mentoring relationships to explore the effects of mentoring for Black male youth
  • MENTOR continues to work with partners like the NBA and Nike to call people to become mentors in order to help drive equality and create opportunity.

These resources and events are building blocks in advancing the movement. With shared learning, a willingness to do things that haven’t been done before, and continued dialogue, we can build communities that understand and address the unique challenges facing young people today, especially boys and young men of color. At each of our convenings, we collected attendees’ answers to two questions that we believe are critical as we seek to deliver on the promise of relationships for all our young people.

  • What supports have been critical in your own success?
  • What more can we be doing to create networks of support for young men of color?

I hope you will join this dialogue by sharing your answers below in the comments.

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9 million young people in America are in need of a trusted adult in their lives to guide them in moments big and small. Join the In Real Life movement and become an advocate, make a donation or become a volunteer.

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