What has been your greatest success with the foundation thus far?
I think the fact that 56 city leaders have stepped forward around the country and said, ‘I’m going to do this work’ and they’re all volunteers. National CARES Mentoring Movement has five paid employees. I don’t take a salary. But to have 56 people around this country in 56 cities that have said, ‘I’m going to do this work.’ They’re not being paid. And here’s what we do. We collect mentors—able, stable black people—and then we connect with them and get them to understand the crisis. We say, ‘Thank you for coming forward. Please don’t back away. Please stay with that young person you are matched with.’ And then we direct them to a mentoring or a youth support program, or a re-entry program that is in desperate need of black volunteers. That’s our work. We recruit, connect, and direct.
Is there an age cap for mentees?
You know, I thought we would cut it off at 19, but what we do is allow people to have their own ceilings. Because we have people in their 20s coming out of incarceration who have been incarcerated since they were teenagers. And through group mentoring we’re going into the prisons and we’re sitting in circles. I love the group mentoring model because it’s hard to get enough mentors to step forward. The fall of our young is faster than the governments, the congregations, and our ability to support them. The group mentoring model is in place when we come to church and it’s the pastor in the pulpit and 500 people right there. [The group model is], say, five of us go into a girls group home every Friday evening, and maybe there are 20 girls there and we mentor them. Then another week we go and, say, two of them can’t make it. Three of them are still there so it lends consistency.
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