Sunday, September 24, 2006

Mentoring in the News. The Rest of the Story

On Thursday and Friday of this week the Chicago Sun Times ran stories of mentoring efforts supported by the CEO of ComEd and the CEO of Soft Sheen. These programs are part of a mentoring initiative started by the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago in response to studies showing incarceration rates of young black men at historically high rates.

I wrote the SunTimes, and said "thank you" and I called the United Way and said "let's meet". The REST OF THE STORY is that this has been a problem for more than a few years and that there are many organizations in Chicago who already offer volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring and who would love to have help from ComEd, Soft Sheen and every other business in the city.

My hope is that the media will link stories they write about one initiative, to existing work already being done in the city, in these, or other neighborhoods, so that the visibility the story draws to mentoring, will draw volunteers, donors, and business partners to tutor/mentor programs throughout the city and suburbs.

In the same edition of the SunTimes that talked about how a mentor program keeps young blacks focused was another story with the headline "20-year old slain on Southwest Side". Nothing in the reporting of this story suggested that mentoring or other forms of youth development or career development, could be a way to keep this type of problem from happening, yet the neighborhood where the youth was shot is the same area where mentoring is being offered.

If you want to help make mentoring more available in high risk Chicago areas, visit the Program Locator at and search by zip code to locate programs in specific areas. You'll find that some areas don't have many programs, thus, we'll need companies like ComEd and Soft Sheen to help start new programs, while we also need their help to keep existing programs in operation.

I hope that the new African American Initiatives at the United Way and at the Chicago Community Trust draw needed reinforcements to existing programs throughout the city. This is the only way we can assure that youth get the adult support needed to stay in school and move to careers.

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