Why Mentorship Matters
It’s long been the case that the success of communities depends on the development of young people – whether in the classroom, in the workplace, or in the home. One of my priorities throughout my life has been mentorship. Without the mentorship of bosses, troop leaders, or parents, I would not have developed the skills I needed to be successful in my career and in my life. I have embraced the importance of mentorship and have had the opportunity to work with great Arkansas organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs, among many others.
Mentoring brings tangible benefits. Child Trends, an organization in Bethesda, Maryland, that focuses on child development, found that mentorship leads to increased school attendance and an increased likelihood of students receiving a higher education. Their data also showed that mentorship helps our youth cultivate a better attitude towards school and helps reduce certain negative youth behaviors, including substance abuse. These numbers are even more significant in minority youth populations provided with mentorship opportunities, where they were 70 percent less likely to initiate drug use than similar youth not in a mentor program.
One of initiatives that I am proud to highlight is the OK Program (OKP). Spearheaded by Arkansas native Donald Northcross, this nationwide program, which includes Little Rock, provides influential mentoring for African-American males. While serving as the Deputy Sheriff with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, Northcross witnessed the devastating fate of too many young Africa-American males, which lead to the creation of this thriving program.
OKP brings together African-American police officers and pastors to recruit, train, and organize African-American men to mentor African-American boys between the ages of 12 and 18. Their vision is to inspire these boys to live full, productive lives. Having a well-respected man within the Arkansas community like Northcross and Little Rock Police Department Sergeant Willie Davis running and facilitating OKP has added to this program’s great success in Little Rock.
Also, very active in youth mentoring is the local chapter of 100 Black Men of America. Each Saturday, young men who participate in the 100 Academy Mentoring Program gather with role models and learn about their responsibilities as young men, in service to community, health and wellness, and financial literacy. Thanks to 100 Black Men of Greater Little Rock president Kenneth “Muskie” Harris for his continued leadership and mentorship.
I’m encouraged by organizations that dedicate their time and resources to the enrichment of our youth. That’s why I’m also proud to highlight The Fresh Air Fund (TFAF), an independent, non-profit agency that provides free, enriching summer experiences and year-round academic programs for children from underserved New York City neighborhoods. During the summer, students attend five Fresh Air camps in Fishkill, New York, or visit volunteer host families across the Northeast and Canada. Here, they learn about new environments and skills that they can bring back to their communities. I’ve seen firsthand the great work TFAF does and have witnessed the lasting impact these experiences have made on the lives of these children.
Organizations like 100 Black Men, OKP, and TFAF are deeply dedicated to their communities and the youth they serve. Whether it’s mentorship through education, ministry, or recreation, our commitment to the next generation of leaders of our communities is vital to their success.