Note: This is a guest post by John Michael Lee Jr., PhD., policy director for the Advocacy and Policy Center in the Advocacy, Government Relations and Development unit at the College Board.
This past weekend I was a part of taking 19 African American and Latino youth on a college tour to visit Syracuse University and Lemoyne College in Syracuse New York. The young high school students were from schools throughout New York City, and each of them are a part of the Alpha G.E.N.T.S. mentoring program that is operated by the Kappa Xi Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (better known as the Wall Street Alphas). To see 19 high school freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors spend their entire Friday night and Saturday morning on a college tour was refreshing. As the trip progressed, I and the other 5 chaperons got a chance to learn more about each of these young men and their plans for the future.
Each of these young men had amazing stories, and all of them had dreams for the future. What they were each lacking was concrete plans to realize these dreams, and mentors who they could reach out to ask questions and seek advice on how they could make these dreams a reality. What they lack, was the same thing that many of us lacked as we grew up. While we may have had a loving parent in the home, we still lacked individuals with the knowledge and skills to help us reach our goals. We now have more minorities with college degrees than at any other time in history, yet we have yet to figure out how to change the stories of minority males with degrees from being an exception to the rule to being the standard in our communities. The way to accomplish this is very simple: Mentoring.
While the solution is so simple, we seem to have a lack of enthusiasm by minority males to become mentors our communities. I am specifically speaking to those minority males who have successfully traversed the college admissions process, overcame the struggle to pay for college, and made it through to graduation. Each of us have so much to offer to offer as mentors that could really benefit minority male students across the country. Yet what many minority males have found as they have journeyed through life is that it is usually not other minority males that have been there to fill in the gaps that are needed to be successful; instead we find that a overwhelming majority of minority females have traditionally filled these roles. This is not to say that there are not male mentors because there are several male mentors around. However, not enough minority males make mentoring a part of their life. Our young men of color cannot wait for these mentors to come into the fold. We desperately need the minority men to take up the call to become mentors. Some great mentoring programs include the Big Brother, Big Sisters, 100 Black Men of America and Boy Scouts of America. Each of these organizations provides opportunities to connect with and mentor young men in your local communities, yet there are also many more organizations that also provide these opportunities on the local and national level. We must be ever vigilant about seeking out these opportunities to impact the lives of young minority males.
The opinions expressed in Why Boys Fail are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.