“With a significant amount of African-American boys growing up without fathers, mentorship is an even more important tool in helping African-American boys excel and achieve the highest positions in life.”
Unfortunately, many young African-American boys do not have their father in their lives as a positive influence, which makes mentorship so critical for their development. Fortunately, I was not one of those boys: My father is Stephen Maurice Jones.
My father was one of my first examples of what having a strong work ethic really means. For as long as I can remember, he woke up every morning at 6 a.m. to go to his job as the Director of the Simba Program at Franklin County Children Services (FCCS) in Columbus, Ohio before going to his second job at the Rosemont Center Home for Girls, where he coordinated events and activities for the program. In addition to demonstrating the characteristics of someone with a strong work ethic, my father also demonstrated what it means to be selfless and dedicate oneself to the betterment of others.
The Simba Program’s motto is “African-American men helping boys become responsible African-American men”. It supports the entire community by recognizing that African-American boys need to be mentored by African-American men. In the programs own words, “mentors have the opportunity to guide boys toward the development of their self-esteem, academic excellence, career goals and plans for the future”. My father often shared with me that the program need oftentimes far exceeds the mentors the program has available. This should never be the case.
In October, after previously doing a speaking engagement for their end of the year workshop, DC-CAP, a mentoring program for District of Columbia High School age students contacted me to become a part of their Alpha Leadership Project. The Alpha Leadership Project’s main purpose is to bridge the gap and ensure that African-American males not only graduate high school but also go to college. Because of my father’s influence, I chose to give back to my community as a mentor. Why would I not be willing to mentor to give other young men the guidance they might or might not be as fortunate to get from the males in their life? I was fortunate to get this from my father and that showed me how important it is to give this direction to others.
When I was asked on my application why I wanted to participate in the program I simply answered, “I believe young black men need mentors. How can I say this and not want to help?” It is really that simple, there is a need and if you believe that you can help…fill it. We need to go and get involved. Set an example for your peers and the next generation. Find a mentee and work diligently alongside them so they are proud to say “like mentor, like mentee” or in my case, “like father, like son.”
These are just a couple examples of mentorship programs making a positive difference. Ask around to find an organization that matches mentors and mentees in your community and become a part of the solution.
It is really that simple. There is a need and if you believe that you can help…fill it. Set an example for your peers and the next generation. Find a mentee and work diligently alongside them so they are proud to say “like mentor, like mentee” or in my case to my greatest mentor, “like father, like son.”
January is National Mentoring Month. For more information, visit www.nationalmentoringmonth.org.