The Rising is an innovative curriculum-based group mentoring initiative that is underway in two Seattle middle schools: Denny International and Meany. The program targets 6th graders and works to create self-esteem and the critical thinking skills they need to succeed. Developed by the National CARES Mentoring Movement, The Rising was piloted in Chicago, Detroit and South Florida where it met with great success.
In Seattle, students meet weekly at their middle school in Wellness Mentoring Circles, facilitated by Seattle CARES-trained mentors and professionals. Community partners are brought in to offer wrap-around services for both children and their families. In 2018, King County’s Best Starts for Kids program awarded a three-year $300,000 grant to Seattle CARES to launch The Rising, and we hope to expand the program in 2019.
Since The Rising was launched nationwide in 2012, data have shown that young people who participate have made statistically significant gains in social skills and engage more in school. Youth were also shown to have more positive feelings about themselves and more hope for the future.
Mentoring Urban Students and Teens, or M.U.S.T., one of our mentoring partners, is making a tremendous difference in the community. Now in its 7th year, the organization was started by Rick Newell, whose years of work at the Rotary Boys & Girls Club showed him the importance of positive role models. At the same time, he saw many talented young men working at the club who were high school graduates but had not gone on to college because they did not have the financial means or they did not know how to pursue a higher education.
“I started thinking: Why not take these positive African American male role models who want to try college, train them and pay them well to mentor African American youth who are in danger of dropping out of high school,” said Newell. The idea grew and M.U.S.T. was born.
After a three-year pilot effort, Newell found that youth who were mentored were doing well in high school and avoiding the criminal justice system while the mentors were succeeding in getting into college. Today M.U.S.T. works with middle school counselors whose schools feed Garfield, Franklin, Rainier Beach and Cleveland high schools to identify potential program participants.
The mentor and mentee spend time building a relationship. They have breakfast once a week during the school year where they talk about such things as what makes a man a man and what aspects in today’s world tend to pull kids down. Group outings are held every other week during the school year and every week during the summer. Through fun activities and conversations, mentors develop a rapport with the young men in their charge, and the mentees develop their social skills by interacting with others in a group setting.
“M.U.S.T. is unique because it serves both youth and mentors,” said Newell. “In addition, MUST mentors receives a coach while they are in the program — older men who help them navigate life and figure out school.” It’s this three-tiered approach — mentee, mentor and coach — that makes MUST so successful.
Because M.U.S.T. focuses exclusively on African American males, a partnership with Seattle CARES was a natural. “We’re extremely grateful to Seattle CARES for its help in finding and providing mentors, and all the time and energy they invest in the program,” said Newell.
In 2019, M.U.S.T. hopes to raise enough funds to support its next cohort of youth. The organization also is looking to diversify its board and to expand to a second location south of Seattle. “M.U.S.T. dreams one day of being a national presence,” said Newell, “but we still need to focus on helping one youth at a time, one mentor at a time, and one relationship at a time. We can all do this together!”
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!”
His name is Nick Abraham, but everyone calls him Coach Nick. For more than 35 years, he’s been a health, fitness, strength and conditioning trainer in the Seattle-Tacoma area, and uses that platform to mentor local youth. Recently, Coach Nick worked with the 4C Coalition, one of our local mentoring partners. There he met and in January stared working with Diontrae, a sixth-grader at the time.
In the beginning, Diontrae had severe anger issues at home and at school. His grades were well below average and he had a negative attitude toward life and himself. But he loved basketball and Coach Nick decided to spend a few days a week with him to workout at a local gym.
At first there was little progress and little conversation, but eventually the relationship warmed and the friendship grew. By the end of the summer, Diontrae’s attitude and school attendance had improved dramatically. This year, his grades are all A’s and B’s. Best of of all, he has taken responsibility for his decisions and behavior. Several of Diontrae’s teachers remarked that he is a joy to have in class.
Mentors make a difference. Of kids who receive mentoring:
In June, Seattle Cares received a $300,000 grant over three years from King County’s Best Starts for Kids program. Seattle Cares is one of 32 awardees that will provide school-based programs and opportunities to promote healing and create a school culture and climate that honors the unique strengths of young people.
Seattle Cares will work with Denny International Middle School in West Seattle and Meany Middle School on Capitol Hill, training and deploying mentors who will meet with students during the school day. These sessions will allow students to build self-confidence and feel supported by their school and their community. Participating students receive the message that they are smart, intelligent and capable of learning.
‘We’re excited to partner with these two schools and their amazing teachers and administrative staffs,” said Don Cameron, executive director, Seattle Cares. “Funding for Best Starts for Kids will help us expand our efforts, recruiting more mentors and serving more middle school students.”