Seattle CARES Mentoring Movement

Greg Banks: Seattle CARES Mentor since 2017

Greg Banks has been a Seattle CARES mentor since we launched Our Best in 2017. Employed in health care, Banks was one of the first men we recruited into Our Best and one of the first to complete mentor orientation and training.

Banks transitioned to The Rising program two years ago where he mentors a 13-year-old enrolled at Meany Middle School. The young man, who lives with his grandmother in the Central District, has seen more than his share of tragedy. Although his mentee was reluctant to open up at first, Banks persisted and today the two have formed a close friendship.

Along with Banks participation as a mentor, the Seattle CARES team advocated for the family, finding community partners to help pay rent and utility bills. We talked to Banks recently about mentoring.

Why did you become a mentor? I was a troubled youth and there was no one to help me make difficult decisions. My father died when I was 16 years old and I felt so lonely after that.

What do you like most about mentoring? I enjoy building strong relationships with young people. Today’s youth want the same thing I wanted when I was their age: To have someone who is there for them. They want a man who accepts them for who they are. I find it surprising that with all our technology, what a young man wants most is to be loved.

Can mentoring help youth better deal with today’s political and racial tensions? There is a lot going on in the world today, from police abuse to a global pandemic. Being able to talk with someone about these things can be life-changing.

How do you talk about these issues with The Rising scholars? During our Rising sessions, we ask the young men to talk about how they feel, what they’ve seen and heard. Then we ask: If you were an adult, what would you do? How would you change things? It gives them a chance to talk about what is going on without being judged. Some ask questions, many talk about their fears. The mentors share their experiences, as well. We tell them the most important thing is to make it home each day. If you are stopped by the police, do everything they ask you to do. It is better we pick you up from the police station under the wrong circumstances than to have to identify you at the morgue.

Describe being a mentor in three words. Rewarding, fulfilling, commitment.

Mentor Spotlight: Marvin Chapman

Last January, Seattle CARES launched the Our Best: Black Male Achievement Mentoring Campaign at a standing-room-only event at Seattle Central College’s Broadway Performance Hall. A few day’s earlier, SCC student Marvin Chapman saw the event flyer and was intrigued. He attended the launch and signed up to become one of the program’s very first mentors.

“I knew I was going to get involved with mentoring when I showed up that night,” said Chapman. “I was tired of hearing and talking about the problem. I wanted to be part of the solution.”

As a mentor assigned to M.U.S.T., one of our partner agencies, Chapman has experienced both the challenges and the rewards of mentoring. “There are lots of different situations out there that feel like a crisis to a young person,” he said. “You have to be able to stay calm and hear what they are saying. For me, one of the most rewarding things is seeing young guys navigate tough times. It’s great when you hear them say or do things they learned from you.”

Chapman did not have a mentor growing up, but he did learn positive behaviors from adults around him. Currently a computer science major, he hopes to earn enough money in his career so he can dedicate his energy to improving his community.

“I am a mentor because I want to do what I can to change the false narrative surrounding the black community,” said Chapman. “I feel as though the media perpetuates negative stereotypes while mass incarceration is removing strong male role models from our community. This causes youth to accept the images they see in the media as true and to act in certain ways.”

For Seattle CARES Executive Director Don Chapman, Marvin’s recruitment at the launch event was a touch of serendipity. “It’s fitting that the place where we held the launch event attracted one of its own students to get involved,” said Cameron. “Here is a young man attending that same college who wanted to become a mentor and he did — and a really good one at that!”

Spotlight on Success

Mentors who volunteer in the Our Best program are helping change young lives forever. Mentoring is not an abstract concept or an educational approach. It’s about real people helping the next generation of Seattle youth succeed in high school and in college, changing their lives forever.

Take De’Shaun, who graduated this spring from Rainier Beach High School. De’Shaun is a gifted athlete and was on the Rainier Beach football team that competed in the state championship.  

De’Shaun was mentored for more than two years by Channing, another gifted athlete at the University of Washington who recently graduated with a degree in political science. Channing was there for De’Shaun, serving as as a role model, tutor and friend. He encouraged De’Shaun and was able to show through his own personal story that a college education was within his reach.

This summer, De’Shaun boarded an airplane for the first time and flew to Dallas, Tex., where he is enrolled at Paul Quinn College, a private, liberal arts, historically black college. He is the first in his family to go on to college.

“De’Shaun has faced a lot of challenges in his young life,” said Hazel Cameron, executive director, The 4C Coalition, a partner agency. “But he worked hard. And thanks to his efforts, and  the continuous friendship and support of his friend and mentor Channing, De’Shaun is embarking on a new chapter in his life. We are so excited for him.”

Do you want to change lives? Learn what’s required to become a mentor.