Members of Lima, Ohio’s black community agree that not only are mentors needed to help youth, but better mentorship programs are needed as well. The consensus is not everyone understands the commitment to make that happen.
The need for more mentors and better programs stems from the necessity to continue a legacy of excellence and to help guide black youth down the right path, according to Frank Cage, owner of Cage Design.
“We are products of other people’s legacies, whether we are aware of it or not,” said Cage. “It would be selfish of us to not acknowledge that, show our appreciation for it, ultimately keep the cycle going and pass it on to someone else.”
Guidance and affirmation are definitely a need for black youth, according to Cage.
“There are so many different avenues and different paths that we can go down, but the challenge is finding which one is better for you,” he said. “I think mentorship shows that and creates an opportunity to provide that.”
The Programs Available
Although members of the black community have perceived a lack of mentorship programs, there are programs available.
Commitment to Kids, a 25-year-old mentorship program, features individual programs that focus on the need of children. One of those programs is Team Monica, a female mentoring group, named after Monica Pughsley, who was instrumental in helping young women at the Bradfield Center. The other program is Team Focus, which educates young men on the importance of business etiquette and the fundamentals of being a gentleman.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is a national program in Lima that partners qualified adults (“Bigs”) with “Littles,” children between the ages of six and 18, for the purpose of empowering, monitoring and mentoring them.
Mentor Lima, a mentorship program through Lima Young Professionals, helps young adults in business receive guidance from business professionals in the community.
The Tomorrow Project is a mentorship program at the Bradfield Community Center that partners 100 Lima Senior High School students with 100 mentors to help students succeed in school and in the business world.
What are the Problems?
Some of the most prevalent issues voiced by the black community when it comes to current mentorship programs is they struggle with connecting to the youth, thus preventing a path for success.
Cage believes certain mentorship programs are lacking a focus on helping specific individuals, a lack of forward thinking. Mentors are not attentive enough, and Lima is a smaller market.
“How can we get the younger generation in Lima to compete with the rest of the world?” said Cage.
He also believes that the mentors in some of the programs do not have the correct approach and struggle with the language barrier to connect with blacks.
“With any group, whether its ethnicity, age or gender, there is a specific language,” said Cage. “If you were to go to China, you would need to learn their language. Those same principles apply to mentorship.”
Leandre Johnson, owner of Fresh N Faded barbershop and salon in Lima, believes there are some efficient mentorship programs, but there are others that could do better, especially the ones he calls “too old school,” lacking mentors that can relate to their mentees.
“They have to find a way to attract the kids,” he said. ” You have to be able to connect with them and that is when they will see themselves in you. You have to be able to identify with the kids.”
Dennis Richardson, the event consultant for Uplifted Services, acknowledged that one of the biggest issues of mentorships is the lack of marketing and making the community aware of the programs available.
“Millennials are not watching television,” said Richardson. “These kids are using social media and that is why programs need to publicize their work on those platforms. Lima is just behind bigger cities and seems to progress slower than other places.”
Lima Fire Department Inspector Chris Jackson believes mentorship programs in Lima are not always successful because everyone is in competition.
“We need to be a broad program,” said Jackson. “Instead of a collaboration, there is jealousy and a lot of mentors don’t want others to shine. I hear ‘me’ before ‘we’ and ‘us.’ My calling is to help young people and fulfill the legacy that I am called here to do.”
A Lack of Mentors
The two main reasons members of the black community believe there are a lack of mentors is because people do not understand the responsibility or do not feel comfortable enough to get involved.
Jackson believes that there are qualified mentors in the community, but they do not understand the time commitment, the importance of answering a call at inconvenient times, following up with children, honesty, and being involved in their lives.
“Mentoring is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” said Jackson. “You become like a parental figure to them and when you are not there for the children, they will lose confident in you.”
Richardson said that although he has been fortunate enough to have had the opportunities to mold him into the business profession he is today, he is reluctant to become a mentor.
“It’s hard for me to do those things that I like to do here,” said Richardson. “There are a lot of haters out there. Whenever we get together and organize and present our ideas, we go through the most excruciating obstacles that non-minorities don’t endure.”
Cage also addressed the element of the fear of change that individuals in the community face when it comes to becoming a mentor.
“It becomes scary for those who have been in leadership because they have a fear of being replaced,” said Cage. “They found an identity in their current position and it has become easier to suppress the younger generation than change themselves. They stopped growing, become stagnant.”
Johnson and Bradfield Community Association Executive Director Kesha Drake believe there is a perception of a lack of mentorships in the community because there are some programs that do not align with the traditional ones.
Johnson, who takes time out of his busy schedule at the barbershop to mentor, tutor and educate children about business, knows that there are people who mentor children independent of a mentorship program.
“There are plenty of mentors in the community that are just not publicized and do a lot of behind the scenes work,” said Johnson.
Drake also believes that individuals in the community who coach sports for the youth are considered mentors.
“These coaches will go to the bat for these kids,” said Drake. “They recognize that they have to be a positive impact and role model to the children.”
It is not important whether individuals decide to mentor kids through a mentorship program or decide to help kids without any program affiliation, according to Drake. The impact that these mentors have on the kids is all that matters, she said.
“At the Bradfield Center, we work with multiple kids,” she said. “It becomes that village that we have to build and pass the tradition of mentorships. One thing I learned is it’s not just about mentoring. It’s about building the village, which becomes a child’s extended family.”
What needs to be done?
Members of the black community have come to the conclusion that if they come together to collaborate, incorporate technology, hold each other and others accountable and put the focus on the children, they can not only create efficient mentorship programs but also recruit more qualified mentors.
“I would like to see a group started where everyone meets to discuss what is going on in the community and how we can come together to address those issues,” said Johnson. “Everyone wants to be a chief. It takes all of us to make an effort to impact these children’s lives.”
Drake acknowledged the importance of mentors using technology and social media to connect with children.
“Through these platforms, we can check in with the child and celebrate and encourage the mentees,”said Drake. “This will help us build our village.”
Cage believes that if mentors in area programs invest more time into getting to know the children and being attentive, they can help the children discover their talents and purpose.
“It’s not always best to talk. Sometimes you have to invest your time into listening to the child. In order to be able to listen, you have to remove your agenda,” he said.
Jackson believes that in order to establish better mentorship programs mentors they should stop competing with one another, be more faith-based, and recruit mentors that can relate with the children.
“Recruit individuals in the community who have been in these kids’ shoes,” said Jackson. ” You want to have professionals, but you also want to get mentors who are from the streets who can educate children on what not to do.”
In effort to establish a mentorship program that is intentional, mindful and structured, Doug Arthur of Link Lima said the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce is working on the One on One program. The multi-year program will connect Greater Lima Region business professionals with Lima Senior students.
“Every kid needs a mentor that can help them with career decisions and the like,” said Arthur. “We are starting at Lima Senior because know how pervasive the need is. We need to do something specific that connects the business community with the kids.”
Camri Nelson / LimaOhio.com