As a high school student, I had a few mentors who I could look up to in every aspect I can possibly think of: father figures, business mentors, sports mentors and journalism mentors (which is now my major). Those mentors changed and shaped me into the man I am today. More importantly, they have motivated me to mentor others.
Growing up, I often attended nursing homes with my church, helped run basketball camps at my high school and even traveled to Uganda on a mission trip. But I wanted to do more. That’s when I found the Black Male Leadership Academy (BMLA) at Roosevelt University.
Those mentors changed and shaped me into the man I am today. More importantly, they have motivated me to mentor others.
BMLA is a new program created by Dr. Al Bennett, professor of education and public policy, Michael Ford, vice provost of academic support and retention, and other Roosevelt staff members to help mentor young black males on the West and South Sides of Chicago. When I was asked to be a mentor, I was happy and humbled to serve the school in a way that addresses issues within the Black community. This was the chance for me to help more.
The program brought 19 teens from eight different high schools to Roosevelt last summer to experience a week of leadership training and college life, during which they lived in the Wabash Building dorms. We helped teach them how to be successful Black men and leaders within their communities. Our goals for the program were to encourage the teens to graduate from high school and think about a plan after graduation. Whether it’s going to college, enlisting in the military or engaging in other pursuits, we wanted to make sure they help contribute to society and better their lives overall.
Our goals for the program were to encourage the teens to graduate from high school and think about a plan after graduation.
During the weeklong program, the teens took Leadership and African American Studies classes. We also took them on field trips so that they could learn about and explore the downtown area. At the end of the week, they gave group presentations about what they’d learned and how they could apply what they’d learned to their lives. We now meet every second Saturday of the month to continue to mentor and teach these youth how to become successful Black men so they can make a difference in their communities.
Being a mentor for this program and these youth really changed my life forever. As a kid who grew up in white neighborhoods in the west suburbs, I never experienced even half of the constant negative circumstances that occur daily for these teens. The teens all came from diverse backgrounds and dangerous neighborhoods. Many of these students encounter violence every day, and some of them come from single parent households with very little income. The chance for success can’t be seen in their eyes. This program really opened my eyes and humbled me to serve them and help them succeed. I am truly blessed and honored to have mentored these guys because I wasn’t just teaching them; they were teaching me as well. I was able to see a part of life that kids should never have to experience.
Many of these students encounter violence every day, and some of them come from single parent households with very little income. The chance for success can’t be seen in their eyes.
These youth are not the stereotypical black males of their generation. They have goals and the desire to do better and not become another statistic. It was amazing to build that connection and bond with them. They are my little brothers and I plan to see them grow and mature into the successful Black men they are going to be.