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.”
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.”
Seattle was among the first in the nation to pilot My Brother’s Keeper, a mentorship program that has helped improve attendance and academic achievement among the city’s black youth. The program rolled out in 2014 at Aki Kurose Middle School, and two years later, has expanded to four other middle schools: Denny International, Mercer International, McClure and Washington.
My Brother’s Keeper is one of a network of 19 partners aligned with Seattle Cares Mentoring Movement. Both programs work to give at-risk youth the attention and resources they needed to be academically, emotionally and socially successful.
In My Brother’s Keeper, mentors meet with students twice a week for 1 1/2 hours. Although the program is tailored to meet the needs of individual students, the objectives remain the same: To provide academic guidance and emotional support, and to impart critical life skills such as communications, decision-making and dealing with bullying.
“We provide culturally relevant group and individual mentoring for students who are not currently meeting state academic standards,” said Daisy Catague, Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Community Learning Center Manager. “All mentors work collaboratively as a team, delivering predetermined curriculum and activities that fit with the goals of the afterschool community learning center.”
The success of My Brother’s Keeper has been recognized statewide when the program received the Washington Association School Administrators award for excellence.
As the new school year gets underway, Catague hopes to increase the number of students participating in My Brother’s Keeper and to recruit more mentors through its ongoing partnership with Seattle Cares.