With mentors, black youth can and do succeed

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Three years ago, a concept designed to couple Black kids with Black mentors was born: Chosen to Achieve. The program, based in St. Paul Public Schools, matches African American middle-school students with mentors who offer academic and emotional support.

Under the tutelage of Program Director Anna Young, Chosen to Achieve, which serves eight schools in St. Paul, is moving at remarkable speed. When Chosen to Achieve started out there were only 60 kids and two mentors for each kid. Today, the program has expanded to 120 kids and 240 mentors. The Federal government gave the program $500,000 several years ago, explained Young, which aided its overall growth.

Young says that the program is so distinctive that none quite like it exists elsewhere. On the importance to the students currently in the program, Young stated, “They need a purpose, a connection to the African American community.”

Until recently, the program had never been advertised before. ”This is because it’s a grassroots [program],” says Young.

The mentor volunteers are all African Americans. Mentors come from all walks of life; among them are married couples and college students. There’s even a gentleman who commutes from Wisconsin every week to meet with his student. Once a month, mentors meet and mingle. “We think that everyone understands [how students feel],” Young says. “Kids say ‘I need you, your time, to be there [for us].’”

The program is also bringing churches in to participate. Right now, four pastors are active mentors. “The doors of the church [are] opened,” says Young. “That’s a lot of powerful interaction.

According to Young, an outside evaluator determined that Chosen to Achieve students’ school attendance, grade point averages and test scores have improved through participation in the program.

“The real success of the program is real commitment and faith that you can’t talk about,” Young adds. “During school, there’s two mentors with a child. We talk about education. We’re passing on that culture.”

To learn more about the Chosen to Achieve program or how you can become a mentor, call Anna Young at 651-293-5952 or go to http://chosentoachieve.spps.org.

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