On Aug. 22, 143 people gathered at Heinz Field for training in the Be a 6th Grade Mentor program. To date, 670 people have applied to be mentors to sixth-graders in eight Pittsburgh Public Schools.
“What we’re going to do in Pittsburgh is make huge numbers of interventions,” said Pittsburgh Public School Superintendent Mark Roosevelt. “We think this will be a key piece to changing the outcomes for a whole variety of urban students.”
Roosevelt joined the mentors-in-training during lunch to tell them his vision for the program and how their participation will help students become “college ready” by the time they graduate.
|POSITIVE ROLE MODEL—Mentor Will Johnson takes a break from the daylong training session at Heinz Field.
“We have thought about education in a far too limited way for far too long,” Roosevelt said. “Why middle school? Because these kids are still open to you. Even if they’re a little behind, there’s still time for them to catch up to be ready to succeed in high school.”
United Way President Robert Nelkin echoed Roosevelt’s vision. He said a mentor’s job would be to make a student aware of the jobs and careers available and then show the importance of education in achieving his or her dream.
“This is the largest recruitment in the history of Allegheny County,” Nelkin said. “We’re not stopping this year and we’re not stopping at this number.”
Twenty-three-year-old Will Johnson was one of the many future mentors who went through the daylong training. Like most of the others in attendance, he said he wanted to become a mentor because of the positive impact his mentor had on his life.
“I realized I’ve been blessed and I haven’t really given back to the extent that I’ve been blessed,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he hopes to present a positive image of African-American men to his mentee. This includes showing his mentee African-American men can have careers in fields other than sports and entertainment.
“Young African-American men are in a crisis state right now. The things that African-American men are exposed to are things other races don’t have to go through. I can relate to the things they’re going through.”
During training, the participants were given a variety of scenarios and case studies to discuss in order to determine the appropriate actions to take when dealing with their mentees.
Guidance counselors, teachers, principals, family and community members can recommend students for the program. Although there are not enough mentors for every 6th grader, recruitment will continue until Nov. 15.
“It is our sincere hope that every child who wants or needs a mentor will have the opportunity to have one,” said Arlene Sparks, director of mentor recruitment for The Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern Pennsylvania.