What they see is what they will be – that’s the motto of 100 Black Men of Coastal North Carolina.
The Core Mentor Group is playing an increasingly important role in supporting young people in New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick County by providing confidants, counselors and, in many cases, friends. Key to their success, these models resemble those who admire them.
And they’ve succeeded – with former mentees who have attended universities in North Carolina and across the country, from a student who received a $100,000 scholarship at the University of Alabama to another accepted at the Northwestern University of Chicago.
“We really emphasize that (motto), and that’s why we tried to present a good image for these young people and make them see what success can look like as they mature and move forward in their careers. life,” said Nick Rhodes, the organization’s vice president of operations.
The group has existed since 2010 in southeastern North Carolina, but is a chapter of a national organization founded in New York in 1963. The goal is to mentor and educate black teens, especially those from low-income backgrounds.
Today, the national 100 Black Men organization is considered one of the nation’s top African-American-led mentorship programs and serves more than 125,000 students in the United States and beyond.
In the Wilmington area, 100 Black Men has over 30 members and reaches approximately 80 students.
The group offers two main programs for students in eighth through 12th grade: school-based mentoring and a project called Success Academy.
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School programs take place at middle schools, including DC Virgo, Williston, and Leland Middle School, where mentors meet with participating students once a week to do activities and encourage them in their education.
The men said they wanted to start reaching students while they were in middle school so they could reach them before they headed off to high school and build lasting relationships.
“We try to be role models, basically, for young African American men that they can turn to as their advocates if they need that kind of direction and consideration,” President Jerry Jackson said.
Success Academy is a program for eighth graders and high school students that meets twice a month on Saturdays. The program, which runs throughout the school year, includes seminars, webinars and workshops to prepare students for two- and four-year colleges, and the group also takes trips to visit colleges and sites. historical.
Through Success Academy, students have the opportunity to learn life skills such as shaking hands, making eye contact, and public speaking. They teach them good table manners, how to play golf and other skills to help them in their future while building lasting relationships with them.
Students also have the chance to hear from local and national professionals in a variety of fields, from medicine and business to the military.
The men help students find careers they are passionate about and colleges they hope to attend. One of their most recent initiatives is the creation of a module to introduce students to the possibilities of the teaching profession.
People of color, especially black men, are vastly underrepresented in classrooms, and teaching empowers them to be another mentor or role model for young people, the vice president of the Institute said. administration John Battle.
“That image is very important to young people growing up in this area,” Battle said. “I thought it was important that we were in the school system so they could see positive images of black men.”
But one of the most exciting parts of the year for students and their mentors is the National 100 Black Men Convention.
Mentors have the chance to take students to different cities across the country, such as Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Atlanta, to participate in the National Gathering, participate in activities, and hear from speakers. This year, the North Carolina Coastal Chapter will take five students to the 2022 National Convention in Hollywood, Florida.
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Many of the men involved in the program had their own mentors growing up, both black and white, and said they saw the need not just for young people to have a guiding figure, but more specifically for more black men who are ready to act as a figure. .
Stan Hixon, for example, grew up in an affordable housing project in Florida, where he played football and basketball throughout his youth. His coaches mentored him and helped him play football in college. Eventually, he coached and taught for 40 years, and now dedicates his time to his role as Vice President of Programs for 100 Black Men of Coastal North Carolina.
They said it’s vital for students to see people in professional careers that are similar to them, as it invokes the idea that they too can achieve it. The men have often said that the only place students see black men succeeding is in professional sports, and participating in 100 Black Men gives them a chance to see other opportunities they have through education.
“I tell them when I talk to these young people, follow your dream. If you want to be a professional athlete, chase that dream, but have a solid back-up plan, and that back-up plan is called education,” Rhodes said. “That’s where we come in and try to influence these youngsters to spend as much time studying math as they do on their crossover dribble.”
Reporter Sydney Hoover can be reached at 910-343-2339 or [email protected]