For Rodzae James, an 11-year old in Chicago, life is rough. He lives in a run-down neighborhood where the kids are not expected to really do much with their lives. But James has hope for his future because he has a few good role models to look up to.
“I look up to my brother because he was the first boy on my block to go to college,” James said.
In addition to his brother, James also has a mentor, Justen Boyd, who encourages him to reach for his dreams. Boyd is a a graduate student at Aurora University; he is also family advocate at Family Focus Lawdale who mentors five students at Goldblatt Elementary School, where James goes to school. In addition, Boyd meets with students at two other elementary schools in Chicago.
“A lot of [these boys] don’t have fathers at home,” Boyd said. “So having me around gives them a positive male influence.”
Every Friday, Boyd meets with his men-tees after school to talk about school, life, and how the boys can succeed. Research has shown that mentoring programs like the one that Boyd helps with can really boost a student’s academic ability and self-confidence. It can also provide a support system that the students might not already have in their lives.
“In general, mentoring can be an enormously effective way of engaging kids and making sure there is an adult presence in their life,” said Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools.
Casserly said that mentoring programs like this one are especially important for black boys because they are more likely to live in poverty and grow up without a male authority figure in their lives. Casserly recently conducted a study of the 30 largest cities in the nation that showed that black males rank lower on nearly every measure of education success than other racial groups. This supports his argument that these boys really need positive role models in their lives to encourage them to further their educations.
The program is clearly working for James and the other four students that Boyd mentors.
“Just talking about success makes us want to be successful,” said another student that Boyd mentors, Everett Spraggs.
Via NY Times