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9 Jun 2017

A Conversation on Mentorship

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June 9, 2017 Category: Local Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:  Shawn Blanchard

By Kharisma McIlwaine

On Wednesday May 24th, UPPN (Urban Philly Professional Network) hosted “A Conversation on Mentorship”.at The African American Museum. UPPN — whose slogan is “Engaged•Empowered•Connected” is known for hosting events throughout the tri-state area that bring together diverse professionals to network. They are also passionate about engaging, empowering, and connecting youth with mentors. The event featured mentors and mentees sharing their personal experiences. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the featured speaker of the evening, author Shawn Blanchard was unable to physically attend, so Marcus Allen, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region, stepped in to replace him. Sulaiman Rahman, CEO and Founder of UPPN introduced him.

Allen, a former professional basketball player, has been the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Independence Region since 2013. BBBS Independence Region is the second largest branch in the country. BBBS is dedicated to matching adult volunteers — “Bigs”– with children “Littles”– ages 6-18. Allen shared his experiences of how mentorship helped shape the trajectory of his life and the importance of selecting adults who are a safe haven for children in need. “I know that when we are put as mentors in a child’s life,” Allen said, “that we have to treat that child just like we would treat our own. I can’t imagine a stranger coming to my door and allowing my daughter or son to go away with that stranger, without a real confidence that this person isn’t going to do harm to my child.  We know that putting a caring, considerate adult in a child’s life works.”

Sulaiman Rahman

BBBS has an intensive vetting process that includes FBI clearance and five references to ensure that the children are safe. BBBS has also implemented outreach programs that work with the LGBTQ community and children (young girls in particular) that are victims of sex trafficking who later become victims of the juvenile justice system. BBBS requires a commitment of at least two visits per month for 4 hours total for at least a year. Research has proven that the presence of a positive adult role model in the lives of young people has an impact that lasts a lifetime.

After Allen offered additional resources and information on how the audience could get involved in mentorship, author Shawn Blanchard joined the conversation via Skype. Blanchard, who penned “How ‘Bout That For A Crack Baby,” candidly discussed his journey from being born to a mother addicted to crack, to becoming a best- selling author, public speaker and mentor. After experiencing an insurmountable amount of loss and hardships, Blanchard credits mentorship with saving his life and setting him on the  path to success. Blanchard began, “Ladies and gentlemen, I sit before you today as a man who owns multiple companies, a best-selling author with multiple degrees from prestigious universities, and a teacher at some of these universities.  I have masters degrees, I went to law school, and I had the pleasure of working with President Barack Obama when he was in office as part of “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative… but I can’t take all of this credit because the credit goes to understanding the concepts of mentor ship that I took on and begin to utilize.”

Sometimes the concept of  giving back can be daunting, especially if you are unclear on where to begin. One thing is absolutely clear, our youths are in need of love, guidance, and consistency. Anyone interested in becoming a “Big” can do so by visiting

To purchase Shawn Blanchard’s book and to find out more about his journey visit

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