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

August 12, 2013  |  

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.”

African-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.

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