Mentoring matters more than you think, especially when it comes to young, Black men, raised in poverty-stricken neighborhoods with low quality schools. I’m from Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Central Square section to be exact. During my time there, I saw what mentoring programs did for me – a Black male, currently wrapping up his Ph.D. in Sociology at Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA. A few months ago, I served on an industry panel with lawyers, educators, and social justice leaders. The purpose – to define what leadership is and how it relates to students today.
Before pursuing a Ph.D., I attended Morehouse College, a prestigious HBCU, also located in Atlanta, Georgia. While there, I was active in mentoring, although, I do recall a time when it wasn’t a priority. One Saturday, while chatting in the college cafeteria, one of the lunch attendants overheard my plans to skip a mentoring session. I was scheduled to meet with some kids in the neighborhood, but wanted to head over to Lenox Mall instead. She walked over and pointed out that the young boys from the housing projects nearby relied on my guidance. As our discussion moved forward, she noted how mentoring matters to those struggling with their academic pursuits. Before returning to her duties, she noted “you can’t be what you can’t see.” I felt that.
As I mentioned earlier, I was exposed to mentoring programs by way of enriching non-profit programs and university experiences. I participated because I saw the benefits. Now that I am on the side of developing mentoring programs, provided are five suggestions that I believe will support your mentoring journey.
1) Attend seminars and workshops sponsored by the university that you attend. Connect with like-minded students and guest speakers will support your academic and professional journey.
2) Join student organizations that speak to your goals. Partnering up will give insight into upcoming internships, courses, or field trips.
3) Find a professor within your department that has the same research interests. Volunteer with
them on a research project, proposal, or grant. The benefits – you will gain valuable experience and possibly a solid recommendation letter for entrance into a graduate program or job.
4) Volunteer with a community group like the United Way of Greater Atlanta and/or become a member of an affinity group like to the 100 Black Men of Atlanta.
5) Visit local public middle and high schools and bring fellow students with you. Speak to a guidance counselor or principal and set up a time once a month to mentor students about your own college journey and why it is important to pursue a post-secondary education.