Better Mentoring Through Cyberspace
ABOVE PHOTO: Soledad O’Brien moderated an e-mentoring discussion hosted by the Urban Youth Program at the School of the Future last week Thursday, October 17. Pictured l/r., Urban Youth founder, Anthony Martin, Dir. of Urban Youth, Dr. Ashaki Coleman, Charles ‘ Chuck’ Williams lll. Soledad O’Brian, Grammy Award winning songwriter Carvin G. Haggins and Program Dir. of Knight Foundation, Donna Frisby-Greenwood.
(Photo / H Michael Hammie)
A new guide to E-Mentoring showcases a local program that uses social media to connect mentors with kids in need of mentoring.
By Denise Clay
Statistics show that one sure fire way to help young men stay away from bad choices is to provide them with mentors.
But while kids in need of mentors are easy to find, mentors themselves are less so. Even the best mentoring programs have problems attracting men due to a whole host of factors including the inability to make a time commitment due to family and employment obligations.
A new guide hopes to change this dynamic by providing programs with a road map to helping young men connect with mentors through the magic of social media.
The What It Takes E-Mentoring guide was unveiled last week at an event hosted by television journalist Soledad O’Brien at the School of the Future in West Philadelphia.
This guide, which was created through a grant by the Knight Foundation with assistance from the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, showcases the best practices of the Urban Youth Racing School’s What It Takes E-Mentoring program.
Anthony Martin, founder and head of the Urban Youth Racing School in West Philadelphia, saw this problem first hand. He held an annual event called What It Takes that connected successful men with those needing to learn from them. But it was hard to sustain those connections because most couldn’t commit to a standing weekly date.
“We had to figure out how to continue those conversations,” Martin said. “We had to meet them where they are. So, since these kids are already on social media, we decided to use that.”
The young men connect with their mentors through a LinkedIn page, which allows them to share experiences, get advice and otherwise have the counsel of someone who understands them, Martin said.
Through the United Way, the Knight Foundation gave the Urban Youth Racing School a $491,652 grant, which included money to set up the What It Takes program, and to provide the technical support needed to make the program a success, said Donna Frisby Greenwood, Philadelphia Program Director for the Knight Foundation.
Because it was a program that was specifically aimed at African American boys, the Foundation thought that the lessons learned in the three years of its existence could prove helpful to others who wanted to start similar programs, Frisby Greenwood said. There are 100 men currently enrolled in the program as mentors, mentoring 200 young men. Some of the men are mentoring more than one person.
“A lot of programs have problems attracting African American men as mentors,” she said. “Because of this program’s success, we wanted to share its best practices.”
Among the things that the guide includes is a section on how the program attracted mentors, how it attracted kids in need of mentoring, and how to structure your own program.
If you are interested in getting the What It Takes E-Mentoring guide, you can find it on the Urban Youth Racing School’s website at www.UYRS.com. You can also find information on becoming a mentor through the program at that address.
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