All Articles Tagged "mentorship"

Mentorship And Motherhood Are Not The Same — And That’s OK

September 18th, 2015 - By Brande Victorian
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Source: WENN

Source: WENN

This has been a rough week for childless women — or better yet women who haven’t birthed offspring. First, Gabrielle Union made mention of the Scarlet letter placed on women who choose to pursue their careers more than motherhood, then Kim Cattrall expressed disdain for the term “childless” as she proclaimed: “I am not a biological parent, but I am a parent. I have young actors and actresses that I mentor, I have nieces and nephews that I am very close to.” And in response to Tyra Banks’ emotional confession of the fertility struggles she’s endured trying to conceive at 41, a writer on XONecole countered: “Dear Tyra Banks, Don’t cry! You are a mother.”

I get where all of these women are coming from. In this day and age, when you hear someone isn’t a mother, for some reason the assumption, on top of the most obvious”something must be wrong with her” conclusion, is that she doesn’t have a nurturing bone in her body. That she’s too self-absorbed to give into her alleged natural maternal instincts. That she selfishly decided not to have kids because they’re too much work and she could never possibly offer the self-less love required to raise a child. Or simply: she’s a psychopathic maniac who hates babies. And it’s these belittling assumptions that force women without children of their own to defensively call themselves mothers of a different type. Unfortunately, while that may unnecessarily help them save face, it does nothing to eliminate the stigma of childlessness they claim to be rallying against.

I’m not a mother and I’ve only made one lame half-attempt at mentorship, but I know they are not one in the same. And they shouldn’t be, there’s a need for both roles and it’s reputable anyone woman would choose to fulfill the duties of either. But when you start equating years of mentorship with mothering children you, in a way, belittle the contribution of mentoring. There would be no need for mentors if people could go to their mothers about all of their concerns, but they can’t and they don’t want to. And that’s why we need women who can do both, and not necessarily at the same time.

If you’re truly OK not having birthed children, stand in that choice. Motherhood is not for everyone and more women need to own that. Furthermore, it’s no one’s business how or why a woman makes the reproductive decisions she makes so long as she isn’t hurting anyone in the process. Mothering and mentoring are both noble endeavors, but they serve different purposes. The problem is they don’t receive the equal respect deserved.

Networking & Mentorships: Expert Tips For Mastering These Career Advancement Needs

April 23rd, 2015 - By Lauren McEwen
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Whether you are still in college or have recently landed an entry-level position in your field, you have probably been told that you need a mentor, an experienced, powerful person in your industry who can guide you throughout your career.

Some professors often describe mentorship in a traditional, if rigid, way. You meet someone at an event, you get their card, a day or two later you send them an email and set up a coffee date. At said coffee date, you wow them with your smarts and experience. Soon, they’re introducing you to their other powerful friends and you’re zipping up the corporate ladder/masthead/tenure track.

But how do you find a mentor? How do you convince an important figure in your industry to invest a significant amount of their already limited time in you?

Here is some expert advice from a few women who know a thing or two about networking and mentorship.

Why do you need a mentor?

“I think that everyone needs people that are older than them that have gone through similar experiences to be able to point them in the right direction,” says Lauren Wesley Wilson. Wilson is the founder and chief networking officer of the ColorComm Network, an organization that connects women of color who work in communications.

If you want to be successful and influential, Wilson says that you definitely need a mentor. “If you want to flat line – stay at your job, make $50,000 a year for eight years – then no, you don’t need to network. But if you want to get promoted, if you want to move up, if you want to be successful, then you absolutely need mentors,” she says.

So, how do you find a potential mentor?

One great way to connect with powerful and experienced women in your field is to find networking groups like ColorComm. Launched after a luncheon in 2011, it’s an organization that connects women who have mid-, senior- and executive-level communications positions.

“I was working in an environment where there weren’t a lot of women of color at the executive level and I wanted to see more faces and be able to think that one day I could achieve this position, but I had to see examples that looked like me,” said Wilson.

Sherry Sims of Black Women’s Career Network began her organization because of similar frustrations. She was looking for “someone who looked like me in my industry” and in 2008, she created a LinkedIn page for Black women to connect about career challenges.

Sims wanted to provide access to women who can work with each other. “The challenges we face in the workplace as African-American women need to be talked about because it’s been happening for years,” says Sims who is also a career coach and a speaker.

That LinkedIn page grew into the Black Women’s Career Network, a platform for Black women to “meet, connect, share experiences, resources, career advice, mentor others to grow professionally and learn how to deal with challenges and complexities within your career while striving for upward career mobility.”

BWCN does that in several different ways including, meet-ups, online webinars, career coaching and its annual national conference, which takes place in Cincinnati this August.

Professional conferences can also be a great way to go. For example, seasoned journalists attend the National Association for Black Journalists’ annual conference expecting to network with younger journalists who are seeking a mentorship.

NABJ communications consultant and member, Aprill Turner, suggests that prospective mentees be strategic about which events they attend at a convention, that way they can meet potential mentors who share similar interests.

“Every industry is a little different. I think NABJ, just based off of our student program, is seen as a student-friendly place,” she says.

If you’re a student looking for a networking opportunity, Turner suggests that you see if professional organizations in your field have affiliate groups for college students, such as the Public Relations Student Society of America.

Sometimes, the perfect mentor is right down the hall – or in your call log. If you already work in your field, you may be able to connect with co-workers or higher-ups who can provide you valuable advice that will help you move forward.

This is someone who sees you often and knows the ins and outs of your specific place of business. That in-house mentor could directly help you by putting in a good word for you when the opportunity arises, taking on the role of sponsor.

“A sponsor is a spokesperson or cheerleader who will talk you up for the next promotion or project. A mentor can give you guidance,” says Sims. “It’s almost like being a movie star.  Your talent coach tells you what to do. Your agent helps you to get roles.”

Older friends who work in your industry can also serve as de facto mentors, able to advise you on more sensitive topics, should the need arise. Sims says that person will probably be flattered that you asked for their advice, and that they could also become a sponsor, if you operate in the same networking environment.

“Not to get all scriptural, but there is a Biblical application of this: ‘…be a Barnabus. Pursue a Paul and train a Timothy,’” says Turner. A Barnabus would be a wise, older friend, Paul is a biblical figure who was “very much a mentor” and to “train a Timothy,” you would make sure you “reach back to someone who is a few years younger than you and do the same thing.”

“Those different levels are important: to have a more seasoned mentor, to have someone who kind of walks alongside you and also have someone that you are training up and mentoring are definitely all important aspects of mentorships,” Turner continues.

You can also look to professors for mentorship (after all, they know your work very well because they both taught and graded you), but that can prove to be difficult post-grad.

“It takes one person to keep the connection going. Stay in contact, send emails. No response? Then there is nothing that you can do about that,” says Sims. She suggests that mentees invite professors to events and find mutual interests to share. Does you mentor NEED to be a black woman? Getting advice from an established professional who “looks like them” is important to many Black women, because they want to learn from someone who shares a similar background and may have faced some of the same career challenges.

However, many companies and industries lack racial and gender diversity at the senior and executive levels.

Sims says the key is to find people (hence, the reason for her network), but thinks that you may be able to find a mentor that isn’t a Black woman who “gets it and gets you.” “Stay open to that, as well,” she says.

How do you get them to be your mentor?

“There’s an art to it. I think that people go to conventions for the first time and they’re nervous and it’s not formulaic. It’s not written anywhere,” says Turner, who thinks it is important to apply emotional intelligence when engaging in small talk with potential mentors. Paying attention to nonverbal cues, understanding when someone wants to engage and when they want you to back off – it all matters.

But she does find that professionals attending the NABJ conference expect for young people to approach them about mentorships. “They understand that innately, part of their role is to be a resource to young people and be a person they can talk to and ask questions,” says Turner.

Wilson, who once spent a year trying to land a coffee meeting with an executive, only to discover that they had little in common, suggests that going the coffee date route may not be the best tactic.

“Mentorship is an organic relationship building and there are many people who I’ve called my mentors without asking them to be and I told them that they were,” says Wilson. Attending meet-ups and industry functions, chatting with potential mentors and finding common ground are better ways to reach your goal.

A certain amount of persistence is key here. “This is a time that people need to be chased,” said Wilson. Email them at a decent hour, (no midnight messages, because those are both unprofessional and often get lost in the early-morning shuffle) reminding them who you are and where you met. Keep those messages short and snappy to give them a greater chance of being read.

Mentees should also avoid the “whatever time works best for you” trap. It might appear to be the more flexible and considerate thing to do, but it actually places the onus of planning your meet-up on your potential mentor. “If you want a meeting or you want a relationship, you need to request a date and time. Often, I get requests that are so open-ended that I’ve moved on,” says Wilson.

What if nothing you are trying is working?

“Networking is not always traditional. Sometimes you have to think outside of the box to establish a relationship,” says Sims who has developed several key relationships through sites like Twitter and LinkedIn.

“Sometimes it’s hard to find someone locally and meet face-to-face,” says Sims. If you can find someone who is willing to continue an email chain with you and offer advice over the phone, you can stay connected and get the guidance that you need.

Be persistent. It is not on the mentor to keep the relationship going, but it is on the mentee. If they never answer your emails, it just might not be a good fit. Many people have multiple mentors who can help them in varying ways.

If you find that mentorship truly doesn’t fit your personality or isn’t necessary for your career goals, you can try getting inspiration from friends and sign up for business-related newsletters. However, ruling out mentorship altogether is not advised.

“Success is not a secret. Someone has done what you want to do. You have to find them and really almost emulate it,” says Turner. “It won’t go exactly for you the same way especially being women and women of color, but definitely I can look at what someone I admire has done and go that way.”

My Mentor Wanted Me to Sleep With Him In Order Get A Job, So Here’s What I Did

July 29th, 2014 - By Tonya Garcia
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One of the biggest buzzwords for young professionals looking to move forward in their career is “mentor.”  You need one. Go get one. Well, I took that advice and reached out to an established professional that I met on several occasions informally. I first asked for an information interview so that I could learn more about what he did, the opportunities for my profession, and insight into what skill set I would need to secure longevity and success in my career.

We met at his office and spoke about some of the opportunities in my field in addition to the many of the things that executives struggle with. After our initial meeting, I was excited and grateful that I found someone that was interested, or at least it seemed interested, in my professional development.

For a year and a half, I would speak to my mentor and visit his office to update him on my career successes, my challenges, and to seek out his advice on the bigger picture. In the midst of this mentorship, I got married, landed a new job, stopped driving, and moved to another part of town. It became difficult for me to visit his office regularly, but I continued to reach out to him over the phone.

When I had the chance to visit him after all of these shifts in my life, he said things like, “Since you’ve been married, you don’t have time for anyone.” Huh?

My mentor was 20 years my senior and married. He implied in many ways that he was not happily married and was taking my marriage to my husband personally. He was taking my inability to visit his office as an affront. He directly related my “not having time for anyone” to my marriage and not the new career demands, my longer commute, or my lack of transportation.

In awkward situations like these, it is hard to know what to do. I did not feel sorry for having a personal life, but I somehow felt… guilty… for not visiting him… I guess?

Even writing that sentence is weird because my expectations for our relationship were based on my professional goals and, in hindsight, his weren’t. This sentiment became exceedingly clear when I was approached by a third party to apply for a position over which he held some influence.

Although the relationship was a bit awkward, I thought fundamentally he respected my credentials and felt I would be the best fit for the job. But when I shared with him that I had been approached to apply for this particular position, he said that I abandoned things too quickly; that the organization that I was interested in was one of his favorites and that he would prefer someone that was really interested in the work.

Irritated, I said, “Abandon what? I have been in my current position for four years. Is this conversation about the position or is this about what you think I should be doing for and with you.”

He did not respond and soon after, neither did the people that so enthusiastically reached out to me to apply for the position.

I can’t say that I was devastated about the end of this “mentor-mentee” relationship or being unfairly overlooked for the position. I learned a lot about human behavior, expectations, and the emotions that we pretend to have in check as professionals when many of us we really don’t.

I now know that mentorship is not the sole solution to career advancement. I believe that peer-coaching, networking, and volunteering in organizations that serve your ultimate career goals are viable options for seeking support and advice for professional advancement.

I also believe mentorship has overshadowed the great benefits of apprenticeship. Unlike mentorship, the focus of apprenticeship is about building a skill set, not a relationship, which in the case of mentees seeking mentors of the opposite sex, can minimize the possibility of someone catching feelings and inappropriately wielding their power against you in bitter response to unrequited love (or lust).

Connect with Kara @frugalfeminista. Learn more about The Frugal Feminista at Download her free ebook The 5-Day Financial Reset Plan: Eliminate Debt, Know Your Worth, and Heal Your Relationship with Money in Just 5 Days.

MN Business Tip Of The Day: Know What Your Finish Line Looks Like

March 25th, 2014 - By Michelle Alerte
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For any business, foresight and planning are major components to ultimate success. Without a clear idea of what to do and where you are going, there is no way you’ll get there, much less anywhere. Let these three strategies get your business to the finish line:

Find mentors- Part of knowing where you want to end up is knowing what the “end” looks like. Have a vision of who you aspire to be. Whether your mentor is someone from the past or someone in a completely different industry, the goal is to imitate someone whose road to success is worthy of emulation. Identify their work ethic, habits, education, and any other pieces of their personality that inspire you.  

Don’t be afraid to re-adjust- If you see things aren’t headed in the direction you planned, don’t hesitate to take a step back. Analyze why this may be happening and make a change as quickly as possible. When you test a new approach be sure to review the results, this way you can make necessary adjustments. Don’t let your business keep repeating an action that fails to deliver your desired outcome.

Avoid shortcuts- Every successful business is built on ethical business practices. Knowledge of your product or service, and a commitment to represent your company and serve your customers to the best of your ability are two other principles that allow your business to rest on a strong foundation. Taking shortcuts will cause your business to suffer. Always striving for improvement is just one way to ensure your business doesn’t get left behind.

Don’t expect success without hard work. On the upside, all the work will likely help you rise above the fray and meet your business goals more quickly.

Minority-Focused Accelerator ‘NewMe’ Moves To Invite-Only Model, Launches Pop-Up Tour

October 30th, 2013 - By Rhonesha Byng
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NewMe’s Angela Benton, second from the left.

Entrepreneurs are typically after two things: funding and advice. Many early stage entrepreneurs turn to incubators, and accelerators to gain access to both. Entrance into these elite training groups can offer resources like legal advice, office space, access to investors and in some cases, seed money. The accelerators typically take a piece of equity in exchange for this. But getting into these elite institutions can prove more difficult than getting into an Ivy League university. Angela Benton’s NewMe Accelerator has joined the ranks of incubators like Y Combinator, and Techstars, with some of its participants already on the fast track to success and national awareness after being featured in CNN’s 2011 edition of “Black In America.”

Entrance for any these programs is typically through an application process, where many experts and industry insiders explain that the make-up of the team is more important than the idea or the product. Spots fill quickly, but getting one has often proved especially difficult for entrepreneurs of color and women to gain admittance. That’s where NewMe comes in. (Another, DreamIt Ventures, has also taken on an initiative to recruit minority entrepreneurs.) Recently, NewMe made a major change. Instead of applications, the incubator has now switched to an invitation-only model.

“At the time our application process we had was not dissimilar to what other accelerator and incubator programs offer,” explained Benton. “We got a range of applicants including personality types and wanted to make sure that we weren’t just looking for the best companies but that we were also looking for people that we really wanted to work with.”

Benton took to the company’s blog in August to make the announcement. To find those entrepreneurs, NewMe launched a national tour.

“We launched a national tour earlier this year (we are halfway done) where we provide one-on-one coaching, a two-part workshop, and a demo day for entrepreneurs,” Benton shared in her blog. “It allows us to dig deeper and learn more about the individual, the business, and if our values align.


Benton, on the left.

This change might lead one to wonder how will NewMe bring in promising minority entrepreneurs, who are outside their network or their reach. They say they look to find “diamonds in the rough”  — and work to make those “diamonds in the rough” the best.

“We have a pretty extensive network (directly and in-directly) and we do a lot of outreach to groups and organizations that aren’t in our network. Also I’m a believer that things fall in line when they should and we are doing the ground work so I believe that our paths will cross with the people we are supposed to be working with if we continue doing the outreach.”

Currently, NewME’s fifth cycle is up and running, it has two women on board, which, Benton says, is due to the invite-only process.

“The previous cycle was all men,” Benton explained. “That was the last cycle that was by application and while I love all of those guys we desperately needed some estrogen in the mix.  Making the accelerator invite only also allows us to have more control over who we want to work with.”

Benton says in most cities the pop-up accelerators visit, the gender ratio is 50/50. A lot of the people she sees are working 9-to-5s in corporate America and looking to turn their passions and side hustles into real businesses.

“For me personally, I realize that most women, particularly in African-American households are the breadwinner or the head of the household so it makes sense that we see more Black women looking to have their ideas validated and get the mentoring they need from the popups in order to take their ideas to the next level.”

There are just three cities left in the tour. Register here for a PopUp Accelerator near you.

Tried A Digital Mentorship? 3 Tips To Build A Relationship With Your Dream Mentor Outside Of Twitter

October 14th, 2013 - By Rhonesha Byng
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via @TaiBeau

via @TaiBeau

It’s almost like the golden ticket. Every career minded millennial woman nowadays is in the market for a mentor.

In the age of girl power so to speak, when we have woman, Janet Yellen, who was just nominated as the Fed Chair, and an awards program declaring that “Black Girls Rock,” you’d think a mentor would be easy to find. And yet research shows only 1 in 5 women in the US, just 19 percent, has ever had a mentor. And some of what women crave out of mentorship can now be replicated in digital form without even needing to know the woman in real life. I like to call it, digital mentorship. Following influential women on social media can serve as a form of mentorship. Many of these high profile women are aware that a lot of their followers are made up of women who look up to them.

“Anyone who has worthwhile insight or advice must share it where people are! In this day and age, that means you have to do so via social media, especially where millennials are concerned,” explained style expert and on air personality Tai Beachamp. “That’s where the audience is.”

Powerful black women are on Twitter and they’re engaging and interacting with their followers and sharing things almost like a mentor would share with their mentee. Tai Beauchamp recently announced in a tweet that she’s doing “#TaiTalks Wednesdays.” And Bevy Smith, who boasts 65,000 followers on Twitter, is another of the many influential women sharing her wisdom via social media.

“[M]entoring has evolved,” explained Beauchamp. “It’s no longer about having monthly or bi-monthly meetings–very few people have time for this traditional model. So I believe in speed mentoring both via phone and social media.”

Naomi Campbell Talks Racism In Fashion And Mentoring Young Models

October 4th, 2013 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Naomi Campbell

The beautiful Naomi Campbell graced the cover of a recent issue of Net-a-Porter. Inside, the 43-year-old knockout discusses racism in the fashion world, why she mentors models and Nelson Mandela. Catch a few of her interview highlights below.

On mentoring models:

“I want people to really understand what the world of modeling is about, and how hard we work. I like the mentoring aspect, as opposed to sitting in my chair and judging someone. It’s really rewarding to see the models transformed and it makes me feel like I’m doing something right.”

On racism in fashion:

“I do think there is still racism. Joan Smalls and Jourdan Dunn and I speak with each other and, sometimes, I’m a little horrified with the things they tell me.”

On how she stays in fit:

“Since I had my operation on my knee [in 2012, after being reportedly mugged], Pilates has become very important. I don’t want to build muscle, just to tone. I’m not extreme about what I eat – I let chocolate and crisps come in at times. You have to allow the little things that make you happy. For ten days prior to the Versace show, I just drank juice – carrot, ginger, pineapple – to cleanse.”

On Nelson Mandela:

“There will never be anyone like him again. When you meet him, you just get such a positive aura. It’s incredible.”

On building industry relationships:

“I LEARNED something from each photographer I WORKED with, their different styles and how they WANTED me to be.”

Watch footage from Naomi’s shoot below. Click to the next page for photos.

Regina King Talks New Movie Project, ‘Let The Church Say Amen,’ And Mentoring Naturi Naughton

September 3rd, 2013 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Source: WENN

Source: WENN

Former Southland actress Regina King stays on the move and we love it! The Jasmine Brand recently caught up with the 42-year-old beauty and she opened up about her new movie project, mentoring young actresses and staying in shape.

On directing her first film, Let the Church Say Amen:

“Just most recently, I directed my fist film, starring Naturi Naughton.”

“The movie is called ‘Let The Church Say Amen.’ It’s a movie about a pastor who’s dedicated his life to his church and neglected his family. And when we meet this family, it’s when the kids are growing up and kind-of adds to the height of the dysfunction – the result of the father not being there. And it makes you laugh, it makes you cry. Amazing performances by Steve Harris, Lela Rochon, Hosea Chanchez – so I’m really excited about that.”

On Naturi considering her a mentor:

“You know I don’t feel like it’s a conscious effort, most times. I mean, like when I was a cheerleading coach, I think that was more of conscious effort because I never was a cheerleader.”

“Let me take that back. I was a cheerleader for 2 weeks because I wanted to take a picture in the uniform. So after I took the picture in the uniform, I quit. But that’s the only thing I’ve quit. So most times I don’t feel like it’s a conscious thing. I think that’s when you really are giving and receiving, when you’re doing it – because you want to or – that’s just a passion transferring that energy with someone else.”

On what she does to stay in shape:

“You know, just – I get it in where I can fit it in. I do work out but you know what? I’m blessed with great arms from my father. So I will have to say that I’m kind of lucky that way. But I do work out – I work my lower body out, often. I eat what I want, but I don’t eat what I want all the time. So I give myself like a day or two, depending on what’s going on in the week to get all of  that comfort food in me, but for the most part I try to eat healthy. You know, proteins, vegetables – not mixing my proteins and carbs – there are so many rules. We’re in L.A – juicing – all of that.”

 Turn the page two watch Regina’s interview.

A Guiding Hand: Why Mentoring Young African-American Boys Is Vital

August 12th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Mentoring is key to helping young men and women, especially young African-American boys, become successful adults, according to Vaughn L. McKoy, author of Playing Up: One Man’s Rise From Public Housing To Public Service Through Mentorship.

If you are a single mother it can be tough raising a young boy. Mentors can help ease the road, though it is not a miracle fix for a missing father. “Although having an involved father or ‘father figure’ may increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for boys, it does not guarantee it. I have seen boys with engaged and supportive dads end up in prison while those raised by single moms become successful professionals.  There are too many variables to make sweeping generalizations about who benefits from mentorship the most,” explains McKoy.  There are several organizations that single moms can connect their sons with mentors schools, colleges and universities, fraternities, faith-based organizations, The Boys and Girls Club, Big Brother, and local corporations or businesses to name a few.  Also consider other family members, neighbors, coaches and clergy, says McKoy.

Still mentor is a great opportunity for fatherless children to interact in a positive way with older males. “All boys need mentoring.  Having said that, there may be a greater need for boys from single mom households to have mentors that provide another voice and perspective other than a boy’s mom, which is often discounted or diminished over time,” offers McKoy. “Even the most loving and supportive parents rely on a network of resources to empower their children to maximize their potential. The presence of a mentor in a boy’s life should in no way suggest they are deficient or lacking in a negative way.”

playing upAfrican-American tween males are most at risk thus guidance is vital. “When boys are in the tween years, their peers have a major influence on the way they think and behave. Because they are similar in age and developmental stage, they are often immature and short-sighted in their thinking and analysis. As a result, peers for tween boys often have undue influence over their thought processes and decision making,” McKoy explains to us. “For this reason, mentors during the tween years are crucial. A mentor can balance the seemingly overwhelming influence of peers and help tween boys understand the short, medium and long-term consequences of their decisions.”

Mentors can provide various types of assistance.   “Mentors have the ability to share life experiences that peers simply do not have. Through modeling, sharing successes and failures, and providing practical steps to achieve success through good decision making, mentors can fill a role that peers cannot,” says McKoy.

Mentoring can also help keep young boys in school and even get them interested in higher education. “Many young boys do not strive to move beyond their current circumstances because they have not been exposed to varied career choices or have access to high achieving professionals within those careers,” McKoy points out. “Among its many benefits, mentoring provides young boys with a visual of success and exposes them to career choices and possibilities that were not previously considered. In addition, strong mentoring relationships provide mentees with the guidance and support necessary for them to complete higher education studies before entering the workforce full-time.”

All in all, there are so many uplifting aspects for young African-American boys to have mentor. “The purpose of mentorship is for the mentor to help the mentee to discover his purpose and grow to his maximum potential.  Sometimes no parent has the expertise, experience or resources to meet the specific need of a mentee — present or anticipated. Therefore, mentors can supplement different household types to support the development of boys through their well-rounded experiences,” says McKoy.

Advocate Helps Kids Stay Safe and in School

June 20th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Chicago Tribune) — Stevie Powell pulled his maroon minivan to the curb next to a weedy empty lot in Englewood.  “Five minutes,” he warned, as Dimonte Pryor, 19, slid open the door and sauntered to his house.  Powell, a big man with a quiet voice and the shambling gait of an overgrown kid, didn’t want any delays. He was driving Pryor and Davonte Flennoy, 19, to a formalwear store to be fitted for prom tuxedos.  Powell is not their father. He is their advocate, a key role in the intensive mentoring program that has been a linchpin in the Chicago Public Schools’ vaunted anti-violence initiative.  He waited for Pryor. In the back seat, Flennoy idly twisted a lock of hair.  Pop. Pop.  Powell scanned the street. “Did that sound like shots?” he asked.  “I don’t know,” said Flennoy, unruffled. “Could be someone putting nails on their roof.”  Pryor came out, smoking a cigarette. He had changed clothes. Instead of his school uniform polo shirt, he was wearing a white T-shirt bearing the image of a young man with a cocky grin in front of a glowing white gate. Spray-painted letters on the back read, “RIP D-LO.”

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