Saturday, June 02, 2007

Oprah's call to action for 1,000,000 new mentors

Organizations that connect youth with mentors can all take a moment to say "thanks" to Oprah Winfrey, Essence Cares and its partners (including the National Urban League, 100 Black Men of America, Inc., and YWCA), and MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership for Oprah's call to action for 1,000,000 new mentors yesterday, May 31, 2007, as part of the Essence Cares National Mentoring Movement. (Click here to see a clip of the show)

Now I don't want to pour cold water on such a gesture, but I want to point out how a few years ago we sent over 100,000 troops into war in Iraq and many of them did not have proper armor, proper training, and were led by leaders who had a poorly designed plan to fight this war.

In 1997 I was a Chicago Delegate to President's Summit for America's Future, which was held in Philadelphia. Every living US President was represented and pledges were made to mobilize volunteers to help the 13 million US kids living in poverty.

Not much has resulted because of the same lack of planning and support as we're seeing in Iraq. What will make this million volunteer mobilization any more effective than these other failed mobilizations?

If we're going to mobilize volunteers to work in this war against poverty, we need to think of the infrastructure needed to make good tutor/mentor programs available in all of the high poverty neighborhoods where they are needed. We need to overcome the funding challenges facing non profits.

It also means we need to learn to use maps, the way Generals use maps to distribute troops to all of the places where they are needed. We need to be able to point volunteers to specific zip codes, and to programs working with specific age groups, such as the Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator is doing.

This means we need to be mobilizing donors who will provide consistent, flexible and on-going operating dollars to agencies in those areas who are the connecting points between kids, volunteers and a wide range of learning experiences.

This means we need to be setting up programs at universities to train people to lead such programs, who can work with youth and work with adult volunteers (who some times act like youth), as well as with donors and others who don't understand what it takes to motivate a youth and an adult volunteer to spend a few hours together each week, month after month, and year after year, so that the end result is that the youth is an adult who can take care of himself and his family, and has the skills and motivation to succeed in a 21st century Internet based world.

I've written more about this on other pages of my blog and you can review a strategy that leaders might adoptby visiting the T/MC web site.

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