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Effective Strategies for Mentoring African American Boys

Principle 1: Start with a big vision for the ultimate outcome: productively engaged adult citizen
Mentoring programs can sometimes have little, if any, impact, particularly when there is not a clear vision and specific, targeted outcomes intended for the mentoring intervention. We do not simply want to provide mentors for young people because they are lacking positive adult role models. Instead, 100 BMwe provide mentors to enable them to successfully make the transition to adulthood. The ultimate goal is that young people will become productively engaged adult citizens—law-abiding, connected to meaningful work, in healthy relationships, and living in healthy environments. African American boys are likely to experience different outcomes as adults. Statistically, they face disproportionately high rates of suspension, expulsion, and drop out from high school, are more likely to go to prison than to go to college, and to father children they will not live with or parent. African American boys growing up in the child welfare system are likely to cycle in and out of the criminal justice system, to struggle with substance abuse and mental illness.


The research is pretty clear—when done well, mentoring can be transformative. It can inspire and guide people to pursue successful and productive futures, reaching their potential through positive relationships and utilization of community resources. It is incumbent on programs that provide mentors for youth to consider the best ways to structure their programs to maximize the likelihood that the relationship between the mentor and mentee will be transformative. Let’s consider in what ways mentoring is thought to make a difference:


In this model, Jean Rhodes (2002) is suggesting that there are certain characteristics of effective mentoring relationships—they are characterized by mutuality, trust, and empathy—and that the mentoring relationships are more likely to contribute to positive youth outcomes if the relationships contribute to social-emotional development, cognitive development, and identity development of the youth. Thus, based on this model, mentoring programs should be deliberate in recruiting and training mentors and in shaping the mentor-mentee relationship so it will make American Institutes for Research Effective Strategies for Mentoring African American Boys for a difference (i.e., through training and ongoing support of the mentors) and in guiding the mentor to address the developmental accomplishments that are critical.


Principle 2: Effective Mentoring is all about relationships, but context is also important
Meaningful mentoring relationships are characterized by mutuality, trust, and empathy. This is an important point. ATM ReadOften, mentoring programs focus on matching mentors to youth based on interests or common characteristics. It is very common, for instance, for programs to have a policy that boys are always paired with adult male mentors and/or that mentors will be the same race as the youth. The evidence, however, on whether matching on the basis of race or gender in the absence of other matching criteria is equivocal on whether those relationships lead to more positive outcomes. In fact, the research shows that it is more important to consider the racial identity of the youth and the cultural competency of the mentor.


Racial identity is a reflection of how a person has internalized their socialization experiences surrounding race. For African American boys, experiences in school while they are growing up lead to the internalization of many negative messages about boys like them — negative expectations, such as: kids like them are not usually found in advanced placement and honors courses; people like them are not found to be the heroes in the textbooks that they read; and administrators and teachers are not tolerant of the behavior of kids like them. Schools are often seen as “sites of intolerance, oppression, and dehumanization”, as is true of other social institutions and settings.


Ethnic identity is a “sense of belonging” to a cultural group which typically involves the participation in the cultural practices of that group. Research shows that when minority youth have developed a healthy ethnic identity, they are more likely to achieve more positive academic, psychological, and social outcomes. As these are the same outcomes that we hope mentoring will achieve, this finding suggests that a critical emphasis for the mentoring of minority youth is to encourage or celebrate the development of a healthy ethnic identity. In fact, a stronger ethnic identity is found more often among minority youth when they can identify a person in their life that is a role model.  It is noteworthy that mentoring programs that have been shown to be particularly effective for African American boys are more likely to involve a structured curriculum that celebrates African American culture and effective roles for men within the context of such an ethnic culture.


Principle 3: Trauma experiences and exposure to violence complicate adolescent development and must be addressed              


African American boys growing up in the child welfare system tend to come predominantly from a larger population of young people growing up in poverty. These youth are likely to have been raised in neighborhoods and homes where violence is prevalent. When youth experience trauma during childhood or have been exposed to serious forms of violence, there are consequences for how they accomplish normal adolescent developmental milestones. Most commonly, it will appear as if they are delayed in achieving milestones.

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As adolescents, young people that have been exposed to violence and trauma (including victimization experiences) are likely to manifest certain traits. They tend to have higher rates of learning disabilities. They have difficulties with problem solving and decision making. They are more impulsive than normal adolescents and engage in a range of problem behaviors at higher than average rates. These youth also tend to struggle with interpersonal relationships and their emotional intelligence appears under-developed.


Effective strengths-based mentoring programs can build the skills of youth in each of these areas. Many of the mentoring programs highlighted in this brief provide structured group experiences that are designed to build emotional intelligence, particularly in the context of interpersonal relationships. These programs provide opportunities to practice and reflect on problem solving, decision making, and goal setting. These programs provide structured activities that occupy the time of the youth who might otherwise drift into problem behaviors. Finally, these programs create opportunities for boys to connect with men in ways that allow them to discuss common experiences around violence and trauma—a process that allows for healing and growth. The extent to which mentors can be trained in or know the features of trauma-informed care can be an asset to healing and secondary prevention.


5 Ways to Build Your Nonprofit Brand’s Buzzability

People like to talk. Give them something to talk about.


One of the best ways to stir up awareness and publicity for your nonprofit brand is to generate some buzz—word of mouth marketing is free (or at least, cheap) and, even better, highly effective. Plus, it’s something that spans both the online and the offline worlds, and can put your organization clearly on people’s radars in a very positive fashion.

Nothing says, “This organization is worth your time and money” better than a satisfied supporter or volunteer who passionately believes that your organization is truly worth his time and money. The big question is how do you get people chatting? To boost your nonprofit brand’s buzzability, you have to give your brand evangelists something worth talking about beyond the latest direct mail drop or email blast.

Here are five ways to get tongues wagging.

1. Create and Promote Stories that Your Engaged Donors/Volunteers Want to Share with Their Tribes.


This isn’t rocket science. What do people like to talk about? Other people. Nothing generates buzz better than a story about a changed life or someone who benefited from your organization. Just be leery of how you tell your stories—keep the focus on the people involved, not just your organization. You don’t want your stories to sound like obvious marketing pitches. However, if you can present an honest success story that includes bumps in the road as well as the ultimate impact of your efforts, you can create a feel-good story that people will be happy to share.

2. Recruit a Group of Volunteers Who Are Willing to Share Your Brilliant Social Media Content.


I’m going to assume that what your organization is posting, tweeting and pinning is brilliant—or at least engaging—so let’s start there and move to the next step, which is to get people to share said content with their own networks. Once you have a good group of passionate volunteers on board who are ready and willing to be active on social media, it’s up to you to post and tweet interesting and sharable content, and then let them share away. Hopefully along the way, you may even see some content go viral.

Here’s a power tip: Make sure you have actionable items in your updates to drive people to your website, like “subscribe to our emails” or “sign up for our next event.” You can also email out tweets and status updates that your volunteers can natively post to their networks so that they’re not always “sharing” your content, but also initiating their own posts on behalf of your organization.

3. Take Ten Minutes a Day to Build Your Own Personal Brand.


Let’s be honest—most of us waste five to ten minutes a day scrolling through Facebook or our Twitter feed when we could be using that time to be purposeful about promoting our own personal brand. In a world where social media rules, we have all become brands ourselves and everything that we say and do on social channels ultimately tells others what we’re all about. This can be both a blessing and a curse, especially when you want to establish yourself as a thought leader or credible resource for your cause. You have to be aware that everything you like, pin, post, tweet or follow says something about you.

So, a few things you can do to build a strong, credible personal brand include:

  • Share your favorite blogs and openly discuss them on Facebook.

  • Tweet out industry articles and include your own insights (and use appropriate hashtags so that your tweet will be findable for those doing Twitter searches).

  • Participate in Tweet Chats, which often happen in tandem with webinars.

  • On Google+, set up your Google Authorship so that Google can recognize you as a credible author that creates great content.

  • Recommend and endorse people on LinkedIn, which will likely earn you a few recs and endorsements, as well.

Above all, be likeable. People get tired of showoffs, preachy posters or over-sharers, so be humble and do everything in moderation.

4. Build Your Street Cred.


Here’s where you can generate some buzz offline, because people actually do interact and converse face-to-face, even in a world that’s often ruled by online communication. Simply recruit and assemble a team of people who are excited about your organization and committed to its cause, and train them to be your nonprofit brand evangelists. I’m not talking about recruiting a bunch of door-to-door salespeople and training them to go around, soliciting donations. This isn’t about fundraising; it’s about word of mouth marketing and creating excitement and awareness about your nonprofit.

So start with a group of passionate supporters and volunteers, and equip them to speak smartly about your organization. You could create a welcome kit of sorts, giving this core group a packaged promotional plan, including do’s and don’ts for speaking about your organization, the history of your NPO, the programs and services you offer, a directory of friendly and relevant places to spread the word, a calendar of events, etc.  You could create a catchy name for this group, give them some swag, arm them with the right know-how and intelligence necessary for communicating effectively about your organization—then let them loose and allow their passion for your cause to take over and spread through your community.

5. Finally, Get Your Board on Board.


There’s nothing worse than an unengaged board—but on the flipside, there’s nothing better than an engaged, excited and passionate board that’s willing to champion your cause and influence a community for good. Your role here is to get your members to the engaged, excited and passionate side. When new board members come on, be sure to onboard them the right way, arming them with everything they need to know in order to talk about your organization effectively.

And with all board members, keep them in the loop. Share success stories. Update them about changes in your organization. Educate them about all the services you offer. And empower them—these are the people you can ask to do the heavy lifting. Your board members likely have valuable ties and connections in the community, and you shouldn’t be afraid to use this to your organization’s advantage. Perhaps a board member can get you a coveted speaking engagement, or pave the way for making a big ask of an important constituent. Your board members have the power and influence to generate a lot of buzz for your NPO, but you can’t expect that to “just happen.” You’re the one who may need to ignite the spark necessary to get the fire going.


5 Ways to Help Children Become Better Creative Writers

The main goal of creative writing is to entertain the reader. The writer chooses the right words and style that will convey their thoughts and ideas appropriately. While everyone can be a creative writer because of their capacity to tell stories in a lively way, some children will need more than encouragement. As parents, we can be more proactive in supporting our children so that they can be successful in their writing.


Here are some tips you can use to help your children become better creative writers:


1. Creativity takes time.

While every child has the innate capacity to be creative, we have to remember that creativity takes on many forms. Writing needs higher-level thinking and success in writing is commensurate to the amount of time allotted to prepare for writing. Hence, parents must teach their children that brainstorming is an important part of writing. Encourage your children to spend time just jotting down their ideas. Don’t worry about the logic of the article yet; what’s important is that children get their thoughts on the different elements of their piece. Providing your children with a small journal they can carry in their bags will allow them to capture their thoughts wherever they are.


2. Writers need a conducive writing environment.

Becoming a creative writer needs passion and a lot of practice. Hence, one way to help your children become the best writer they can be is to setup a home environment where their writing materials are readily available, and where they can have the peace and quiet
ATM Early Chilhoodthey need to focus on their task. Thinking of a good way to spend time with the family? Word games such as scrabble can go a long way!


3. Use writing prompts for practice.

We are all familiar with “Once upon a time…”, but there are a thousand and one ways to begin a story. Take some time to help your child get started with the writing process by giving story starters or scenarios where they can base their stories from.


4. Use visual images for writing prompts.

Images from magazines, books and even store flyers are great ways to pique a child’s interest. You can use them as prompts, or simply for providing encouragement. If your child is having a writer’s block, you can start a conversation about an image first, before letting him write down some of the emotions he experienced while looking at the images. Images can also be used as a subject for a story or a poem.


5. Write first and then edit later.

One must always remember that writing is a process. Drafts are called such because the first article that your child will complete is not the final one. It will contain all the ideas, but often it will need to be edited so that the ideas build up to support the story. Hence, it is important that children are given more freedom with their thoughts especially in the first phase of writing. This way, they can write the ideas as they come. As parents, we can help remind children not to worry about grammar and spelling, until everything is completed, and we can help them keep up with their personal creative process. Some parents go as far as allowing their children to record the story first – writing down the story comes next, and editing comes way after.


Parents play an important role in ensuring their children’s success in writing. More than creating a home environment that is conducive to their needs; parents are also instrumental in providing children with the right habits that will enable them to develop into better writers.