Thursday, October 8, 2009

Will Mentorship Work For Inner City Kids?

With the recent murder of an honor student caught live on a cellphone, the country is up in arms on what to do with our displaced youth. I am a bit upset about the response this is getting because countless number of youth have been killed in our inner cities without even a mention. I guess the reason for the shock is due to the fact that many of us go about our everyday lives knowing that the streets are tough but if we don't have to see it, than we don't have to deal with it. Until.... it's right in our faces bold as day witnessing the cold blooded murder of a child with a promising future. So now we are here and every idea is being brought to the table to curtail more events like this. So what do we do?

Mentorship is at the top of the list, but from whom; Million Dollar Athletes, Rappers, Actors, all of whom, most of the displaced youth are striving to be, but less than 1% will ever achieve that goal. If mentorship is going to get serious play, what type of delivery should it receive? I would hate to see any attempt at dealing with such a delicate issue confronted prematurely and lose its; effectiveness. Chicago is flirting with the idea of using 10,000 people from the community for the approx 10,000 displaced youths; will it work? Who knows. But Im just sick and tired of living in a reactive society where something has to happen first before we act.

Should people be paid to provide mentorship? Ohh this is a slippery slope if I ever saw one. The idea of paying for mentorship may seem a bit selfish, because after all you are trying to give back to the community and it shouldn't cost you a thing. I am for and against paying for mentorship. I feel that if you don't pay people for mentorship the quality of support will be dismal. Because after all you are relying on the good hearts of individuals to achieve a goal. If payment was implemented than any person may feel compelled to provide the service at any cost and you may get a slew of bug-a-booes trying to mentor young adolescents with only money in mind.

I am not one of those guys who complains about how things are not working but never offers any alternatives. Those people sicken me; so in an attempt to separate myself from the pack here is my suggestion:

First Parents, Guardians, Schools, or Correction facilities need to identify those kids who are at the highest risk of making Jail a career. Mentorship is great for kids who are doing well to stay on track, but for mentorship to really work it needs to start at ground zero; with the kids who are living the lives of criminals, future gang bangers and wannabes.

After these kids have been identified they need to be placed on a system that measures how high risk they are. For instance, kids that have a history of violence and criminal activity would go to the top of that list and kids with lesser infractions will subsequently fall in merit of order along the list. With regards to each kid that is separated into these groups they are again separated in order from worst case on down. It is also very possible that some kids who have committed the most criminal activities can be the most salvageable and the groups of wannabes who are lower on the list can in the future reek more havoc. These variables will have to be looked at first when determining who or what type of behavior is considered to be the most at risk.

This is the time when I think a Mentorship program should be implemented. But not just any type of mentorship program. Im talking about mentors getting paid for results instead of time. For instance a mentor would receive a list from all the cases in his or her city and pick which kid or kids they will choose to mentor. The mentor will than be given 18 months to change the kid around on a path from which the kid was on and to make a noticeable positive contribution to society. It could be going back to school and getting good grades, finding a job to get off the streets, or working on community projects. Whatever it may be the kid has to change his or her life around. Payment will work in two ways; First, based on the severity of the case the payment will be much higher than the less severe cases. Second that payment would only be paid out to mentors every 6 months based on their performance and the results they were able to achieve with the kid.

This is a touchy topic but I really think with a program like that you will get some quality mentors that will come from all walks of life. From Doctors too Military professionals who want to change the life of a kid. Sure they will get paid, but collectively we cannot afford to keep looking the other way while our youth prey on each other.


Kenneth Moore said...

That is truly a huge topic to tackle. Having lived in the path of the DC sniper, however, I understand the "why focus on this one when this happens all the time?" Completely different situation, but related, I guess.

I think the results-drived reimbursement is a good idea. Eighteen months is a long time for a child--heck, it's a long time for me! A lot can happen, and with a dedicated community member trying to help a young person improve his or her life, a lot of good can be done. But that dedication is key--that's why monetary incentive does make me cringe, a bit. Some people will do anything for a paycheck, whether they care or not. Personally, I have to have some sort of passion in my work and volunteer endeavours, or what's the point? If a paycheck is involved, I think quality and dedication may not be entirely ensured. Without a paycheck, however, there will be fewer mentors, and fewer still who can be constantly dedicated to their kid(s). So the results-driven option is a good one--it will encourage a broad range of people to work well, but not only for the money, because that's a far-off goal. It clearly will not be an option to do this as a full-time gig, which will limit the availability of mentors but also limit the availability of scumbags.

There's also a whole heck of a lot of nontraditional mentorship programs--the Washington Youth Garden, for example, offers youths the opportunity to get involved in a long-term growing project with other families from the DC area. The adults who work there help guide them, give them discipline, and teach them about respecting others, themselves, and Earth. It's not a one-on-one mentorship program for high-risk youth, but there are more options than just that to better children's lives. Keeping other opportunities in mind while setting up such a program would, I think, best serve the children who are in need of such services.

ATW said...

Kenneth- Great Points you Highlighted!! And I to remember living in Fredericksburg at the time when the DC sniper terrorized NOVA. I remember zigzagging to the mall and crouching while pumping fuel. I was a nervouse wreck.

But back to the kids, I agree with you about cringing when paying for mentors. There is so much open to corruption when money is involved, but at the same time there is alot to gain when money is involved also. You bring up some very good points about the length of time I suggested and I you hit the point right on the head with regards to weeding out the ones who are in it for the good and those who are in it for a paycheck. Becuase lets face it many of these adolescents took years to develop these behaviors and it will take some time for them to turn around. But the challenge is to get good people in the community to commit and pull from there busy schedule to assist with these kids. I would love to take kids from the hood and set up veg gardens all around town. But for me I need to work with kids who are on a one way ticket to jail so that way I have something to hold over them, if they act up. But whatever happens I will one day like to give of myself and help out. Personally Im into whippin ass, but there is a kinder gentler side of me that some seem to appreciate. Thanks for your comments. You've enlightened me.