Damon Alexander believes that mentoring can play a key role in guiding African-American boys toward college and good careers. Alexander is the founding president of the new Inland Empire chapter of Black Men, an Atlanta-based mentoring organization with more than chapters nationwide.
Alexander said too many African American boys aspire to be rappers or athletes, because those are the types of black men they see most often in the media. Almost all of the mentors in the Inland chapter are college graduates, and the large majority of them have postgraduate degrees.
But mentors can assist any child, he said. Mentors stay the same year-to-year, so who is linked with a mentor in sixth grade sticks with him as long as the child is in the program, Alexander said.
In the classes, mentees learn life skills and social and emotional skills, and they are taught about the importance of a work ethic and moral character. They also learn about history. Discussing the horrors of slavery is important, but black children need to see themselves as more than the descendants of slaves, Alexander said. Scholars have a dress code of khakis and a tucked in polo shirt, to underline that first impressions are important in life, Alexander said.
The classes are deed to be group sessions, because the boys and young men can learn from each other and rely on each other for support and encouragement, he said. Parts of the program are deed to guide the scholars toward college, for those who want to attend college, he said.
The parents of the scholars also meet every two weeks, for an hour at a time. Those classes touch on a range of topics, including college-entrance requirements, bullying and financial education. There also are plans for health screenings for parents and for the community at large.
For the past several weeks, the two groups have cosponsored free SAT prep courses. At least two other series of prep courses are planned for later in the year, Alexander said.
The national group formally recognized the Inland chapter last month. It already has 33 mentors and 55 boys and young men from sixth through twelfth grade, Alexander said. Later this month, the program will expand to college-age young men.
The group is looking for more mentors and mentees. By David Olson Press-Enterprise. The program is free for the scholars and their parents.
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