MENTOR North Carolina is a capacity-building organization that is dedicated to increasing the number of youth in quality mentoring relationships across the Carolinas while working to address the systemic barriers that young people face on a daily basis. This includes providing the leadership and infrastructure necessary to support the expansion of quality mentoring relationships across North Carolina and serving as a clearinghouse for training, resources, and public awareness and advocacy.
In 2016, Movement of Youth (MOY), an award-winning youth development agency founded by Atrayus O. Goode, was commissioned by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership to explore the possibility of launching a MENTOR Affiliate in the Carolinas. From May 2017 to November 2017, MOY conducted a multistate feasibility study to determine the feasibility and areas of focus.
The study was led by Inspirus Consulting, Inc., a full-service Organization Development (OD) consultancy that works across multiple levels of systems to fully engage individuals, teams, organizations and communities where appropriate. Inspirus Consulting incorporates the Applied Behavioral Sciences in its work to provide clients with informed insights and tools for sustainable solutions. Al Sullivan, President of Inspirus Consulting is a previous at-large member of the National Board of Directors of the 100 Black Men of America and is a Past President of the local Triangle East Chapter.
The feasibility study was intended to provide understanding and insight about the current state of quality mentoring programs across the Carolinas; identify specific mentoring program and stakeholder needs, and significant challenges; and illuminate the overall direction and priorities to support launching a regional mentoring initiative that will provide sustained value to Carolinas based mentoring. The overall project scope included:
- Stakeholder Interviews (38 participants, in-person & phone)
- Online Survey (100 participants surveyed, 23% response rate = 23 participants)
- Focus Groups (4 focus groups, 17 participants)
- North Carolina (Central, Western, and Eastern), South Carolina
- Data Feedback Presentation (20 participants)
- Total Participants = 98
Organizations accounted for approximately 4,700 total youth served in 2016.
Top 3 Mentee Subgroups
The top 3 mentee subgroups (accounting for 63% of youth represented in the study) for participating agencies fell into the following categories as listed below:
Top 5 Opportunities for Improvement
Based on summary findings from the data, mentoring agencies reported the top 5 opportunities that presented areas of need in which their programs could benefit from additional support:
- Mentor Recruitment. Agencies reported that “At-risk” youth were difficult to match with mentors at times, particularly when there were racial differences between the mentor and mentee (e.g. white mentor paired with black youth). Additionally, assistance with best practices for recruiting, training, screening, matching, and monitoring/supporting mentors was a recurring theme.
- Fund Development. While agencies reported that they were increasing in youth served, program budgets were not growing at a rate to support scaling up service efforts. Support with grant writing, introductions to funders, and fund development templates were listed as technical assistance needs.
- Program Evaluation/Data Collection. While access to funding was reported as a need, one of the barriers reported was related to support needed in capturing program outcomes and articulating impact to potential funders in a compelling way.
- Capacity Building. Several agencies expressed concern with the future of their programs as it relates to infrastructure. Specifically, hiring additional support staff, expanding program office space, and supporting new mentor/mentee programming were listed as top priorities.
- Professional Development. The need for access to networks, professional organizations, tools, and best practices for mentoring was listed as a key technical assistance need as it relates to addressing program challenges.
To unify and advance the local mentoring movement, MENTOR North Carolina is focusing its work in three Core Functional Areas:
- Provide ongoing training and technical assistance to ensure quality standards in all mentoring efforts
- Recruit mentors to significantly increase the number of youth in quality mentoring relationships
- Enable a range of organizations to start, manage, and expand mentoring initiatives to meet the local demand
- Identify ways to leverage or increase human, financial, or in-kind investments in mentoring initiatives
- Advocate for legislation, policies, and public funding streams to support the mentoring movement
- Help local systems integrate mentoring as an evidence-based intervention proven to maximize impact in a range of outcome areas
- Lead public awareness campaigns to increase the general public’s knowledge of the need for mentoring
- Convene local mentoring providers, and promote networking, collaboration and shared learning
- Regularly collect data to identify gaps and share findings to increase understanding of the impact of and need for mentoring
Youth in mentoring relationships are oftentimes told that anyone who works hard, studies, and makes good decisions will get ahead. But for many youth of color, structural barriers based on race create unique life challenges that mentoring alone cannot account for, such as the following:
- Black preschool students are more likely to be suspended or kicked out of class for normal child behaviors like tantrums, hitting, or disobeying than are white children (New Federal Report, March 2014)
- White Americans are more likely to violate drug laws than Black Americans, yet Blacks have been sent to prison on drug charges at a rate of 20-50 times that of whites (ACLU, 2013)
- A White job applicant with a criminal record is more likely to get called back than an equally qualified Black applicant without a criminal record (Pager, 2003)
The failings of black culture are often used to explain black hardship. To that end, marginalized communities are required to conduct themselves “appropriately” to earn respect in mainstream culture—messages that oftentimes show up in mentoring relationships. The problem with this respectability politics narrative is that it reinforces pejorative messages about African Americans and fails to account for the impact of systemic and institutionalized racism on black communities.
MENTOR North Carolina will support organizations and agencies that offer mentoring support and enrichment opportunities to youth—in particular youth of color—with the express purpose of exploring the foundations of institutionalized racism, how it manifests in mentoring relationships, and how mentoring might be leveraged to advocate for social change.
Rights for LGBTQ Youth
Every day, thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth in the United States face injustice in schools, danger in their homes, or uncertainty on the streets. Consider the following examples:
- Nearly a quarter of LGBTQ students report being physically attacked in school
- Young people who come out to their parents are vulnerable to rejection and are at an increased risk of victimization with significant long-term health consequences
- Between 20 percent and 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ, meaning that hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ children and young adults are living on the streets each year
MENTOR North Carolina will elevate the importance of empowering LGBTQ youth to achieve their full potential—despite the obstacles often put before them—to make a significant impact on society.