MIMAUE's Colloquium Series, Spring 2007
Session III: Mentoring Models/Programs for Educating Maryland's African American Males
Dr. Courtland Lee and Mr. Heber Brown, III
Dr. Courtland Lee is a Professor and Director of the Counselor Education Program in the Department of Counseling and Personnel Services at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Mr. Heber Brown, III is the Manager of Government and Higher Education Partnerships at the Maryland Mentoring Partnership in Baltimore, Maryland.
What is a mentor? According to Dr. Courtland Lee, a mentor is a trusted friend, a counselor, or teacher, usually a more experienced person, and someone who takes a person "under his/her wing" and "shows him/her the ropes." Dr. Lee also made the key point of distinguishing that a role model is not a mentor, but a mentor can be a role model. Dr. Lee's presentation title, "Tapping the Power of Respected Elders: Mentorship for African American Male Youth", is the title of one of the chapters of his book, Empowering Young Black Males—III: A Systematic Modular Training Program for Black Male Children & Adolescents. From his research, Dr. Lee concluded that the data suggest mentoring programs have a positive effect on the academic performance and psychosocial development of students. He discussed mentorship and the empowerment of African American male youth – the ultimate goal is have African American males to become empowered. It is desired that African American males become aware of their own power, use this power in positive ways – ways that do not infringe upon other people or get them into trouble in school—and to develop a sense of responsibility for their own community. According to Dr. Lee, successful empowerment mentor programs for young black males should have guidelines for action and the empowerment strategies should:
- be developmental in nature
- provide for the presence of competent adult black males (mentors)
- capitalize on the strengths of African American families
- incorporate African/African American culture
- include a celebratory/"rites-of-passage" experience
Dr. Lee's empowerment program consists of five modules that start with young African American males in the early grades and continue through the adolescent years. It also includes preparation for men to serve as mentors, educational advocacy for African American male students, and empowerment strategies for African American parents. The basic criteria for the mentorship of African American male youth should include a concern for the academic and social challenges facing African American youth; an expressed commitment to helping this population; positive insights into being black and male; demonstrated success in personal endeavors; a sense of responsibility; and a willingness to grow as an African American male. Recruiting sources for mentors include schools; religious institutions; community agencies, fraternities, social, service and civic organizations; black-owned businesses, corporations, colleges and universities; and male partners. Though Dr. Lee contends that the only person who can teach a black boy how to be a black man is a black man, he clarifies that others can serve in the capacity of "allies" to support mentoring. Dr. Lee further contends that training is of the utmost importance and mentoring should not occur without formal training.
Mr. Heber Brown echoed some of Dr. Lee's thoughts on mentoring by defining a mentor as a wise and trusted guide who shows someone "the way." Mr. Brown spoke to the topic: "Making Maryland the State that Mentors," stating that the mission of the Maryland Mentoring Partnership is to develop and support high-quality, sustainable youth mentoring program throughout Maryland. The vision for the Maryland Mentoring Partnership is for all youth in Maryland to reach their fullest potential through mentoring. Also like Dr. Lee, Mr. Brown stated that research shows that mentoring works. He spoke vehemently to better attendance, improved academic performance, positive relationships with peers and adults, and reduced criminal acts, substance abuse, and suspensions from schools for youth who participated in mentor programs. Mr. Brown emphasized that the programs should last for an extended period of time (at least six months) and that the programs and mentors must remain committed. He heightened the audience's awareness of the cost effectiveness of mentoring one youth in a one-to-one program for $1,000-$1,500 per year compared to spending up to $80,000 a year to house one youth in a correctional or rehabilitation facility. Currently, 54,000 Maryland youth are involved in mentoring programs. However, less than 5% of Maryland's youth in need of mentors have one. Approximately 85% of Maryland's mentoring programs have students on waiting lists to receive mentors.
Mr. Brown stated that a major reason for the gap in mentor programming can be attributed to the lack of men participating as mentors. Theoretically, it is believed that many men do not serve as mentors because they don't value volunteer work as much as paid work; they believe volunteering with children is viewed as "feminine activity"; they have fear or lack of confidence; they are unaware of the need and how the program works; and there is poor marketing. Mr. Brown suggested that reviewing marketing materials, language, and presentations to ensure that they appeal to and include men is a must. He further suggested reconsidering where we look for male mentors, such as churches and male organizations. Mr. Brown, like Dr. Lee, stressed the importance of training and preparing mentors. Mr. Brown also offered some suggestions on how anyone can help:
- Become an ambassador for mentoring
- Create a mentoring program with your club, association, fraternity/sorority, faith-based institution or place of employment
- Hold National Mentoring Month events on campus
- Hold a job/university shadowing day
- Consider supporting mentoring programs with financial or in-kind resources
- Visit www.marylandmentors.org for more information or ideas