Success Stories

The Heartache, The Hope

In some cities, only 18% of our young males graduate from high school! Teen pregnancy is on the rise again and too many young women may not realize their dreams because they are forced to become adults without all the tools necessary to navigate the landscape. But, there are people like you who have made a difference.

In the Bronx there is the Eagle Academy for Young Men, a high school started by the 100 Black Men of New York. With the commitment of administrators, teachers and the 100s who volunteer as mentors, the graduation rate for the young men is nearly 100%.

In Detroit, bolstered by the loving hands and hearts of men and women like you, the Catherine Ferguson Academy, headed by visionary leader G. Asenath Andrews, educates pregnant and parenting young women with such skill that 95% of them go on to graduate high school, and 100% of those who do graduate are accepted into college.

The people who lead and support efforts like these are loving, smart, conscious and committed. They have saved countless lives. So can you!

The Doctor Makes House Calls
Charlotte Freeman
Memphis, Tennessee

I was rather new to my current church, and our pastor was preaching about the importance of mental health (he was the commissioner of health for the state of Tennessee). He asked me to come forward so that he could introduce me to the congregation. That following Tuesday I was headed into the church for Bible study, and this vivacious 13-year-old called out, "Hey, you're the psychiatrist, right?" and I said, "No, I'm a psychologist." She replied, "Yeah, that's what I meant. That's what I want to do." This was Brittany. I went over to her and her mother and two younger sisters and we talked briefly. I suggested that Brittany shadow me one day at work. She took me seriously and came to my office at a child-abuse and domestic-violence-prevention center and then to my private practice. We really connected, and she shared many of the challenges she had been facing the last year. She acknowledged that she had been defiant with her mother at times, though she readily admitted her mother was a very good mom and her best friend.

It is now four years and many seasons of our lives later. Brittany is a member of Delta Gems with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Memphis Alumnae Chapter. She has attended summits with The Links, Incorporated, River City Chapter, and hopes to participate in an educational enrichment camp this summer with Girls, Inc. She is one of the lead praise dancers for Ministry in Motion-Youth. She sings in the choir and is very active in our youth ministry. She'll be a senior next year and wants to attend Harvard. And she works one afternoon a week in my private-practice office. I'm thankful that her mother and I have a great relationship and that she has graciously allowed Brittany and me to continue to define, refine and value our relationship as mentor and mentee. I have no children, so it warms my heart when Brittany says I'm a second mom and demands that once a month we spend our special day together. Brittany is a true delight.

Brother Latif, "The Fade Doctor"
Atlanta, Georgia

Brother Latif, an entrepreneur who owns a barbershop in Atlanta's inner city, was inspired to get involved with the young boys in his community when he saw they had taken a piece of wire, tied it around a lamppost, and were using it as a makeshift basketball hoop. Brother Latif got together some funds and placed a basketball hoop behind his shop. And he has opened up his barbershop to the young men in the community. Now they come there for snacks, advice (including condoms and safe-sex talk) and a sense of brotherhood and belonging through exposure to positive Black male role models in the community. Brother Latif also hosts summer basketball tournaments for young people.

Keylink Technologies Engineering Program
Bernard Key
Chicago, Illinois

Bernard Key, a technology consultant and former teacher, whose clients include the school system, was inspired to found a robotics program at Chicago's Englewood High School (a high-risk institution) to expose students to science and technology. The after-school and weekend mentoring program allows students to develop skills in creating robots, gives them exposure to future academic and career opportunities in science and technology, helps them develop teamwork and leadership skills, and boosts their self-confidence. Since the program's inception, students have participated in the U.S. Robotics Competition and placed third out of more than 60 schools in the Midwestern region. Several students who have gone through the program have landed summer internships and earned academic scholarships to attend the Illinois Institute of Technology. The program serves between 70 and 100 youths annually.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
Dale Long
Dallas, Texas

I graduated from Texas Southern University, Houston, in 1974, and met my first Little, 8-year-old Keith Farmer, the next month. One highlight of our experience was that he was in my wedding in 1976. We lost contact when I later moved to Dallas; leaving Keith was really difficult.

I went on to establish several solid mentoring relationships: For nine years I was matched with Michael Johnson, who eventually toured the country with me, promoting the program and recruiting volunteers. We remain friends to this day; I was groomsman in his wedding. Now I mentor a special-needs student who is autistic. December 2007 will mark our fourth year as a match. Simple tasks that we take for granted, like using an elevator or stepping down from a bus, are difficult for him. He has taught me patience. In recent years I have served as a resource and a leader, sharing volunteer recruitment expertise with my fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

After many years of unsuccessful attempts to find my first Little Brother, Keith, I was pleasantly surprised to get a call from him last November. He called just to say how much the experience had meant to him when he was a kid. I have been matched with a total of six Littles, recruited thousands of volunteers, and urge all men to be an example to our young people. I have a rallying cry: “In order to be a man, a boy must see a man.”

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)
Phyllis Simon
New York

Phyllis Simon is Mike Payne's* CASA. Mike and his family have interacted with the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) for most of his 20 years. Early in his life he was passed around to relatives and family friends. When he was 12 his mother died, and he went into foster-care placement. There were allegations of abuse and neglect as well as parental substance abuse. His mother wasn't much as parents go, but she was all he had. So when she died, he became distraught, filled with anger and grief. With all that unresolved emotion, he was difficult to manage. Every person he lived with tossed him out within a couple of months. In total, he moved ten times while he was in foster care. If DYFS put Mike someplace where he could "walk," walk he did. Eventually the agency placed him in a locked-down residential treatment facility and he couldn't leave. Ironically, this was the most stability he ever had. Two years later he was discharged and quickly returned to form. Today Mike faces more challenges than rewards in life.

Though Mike was in and out of 17 schools, he graduated from high school on time. He reads and writes well and has a charismatic personality. He often won't admit he needs help, and by the time the helper figures it out, the opportunity has passed. Like many teens who have grown up in the child welfare system, he can be his own worst enemy. Yet there's something about Mike that keeps adults from giving up on him.

For six years Phyllis has been in his life. She considers him to be family, like a son. She says, "I suppose he's lucky to have us, but I'm lucky to have him too. In the difficult world of child welfare, Mike has helped me hold on to my humanity and kept me from becoming completely jaded. When I started my work for CASA, I thought I would be changing the lives of children. But I found they have changed my life as well." Phyllis shows Mike that someone cares and is there for him, through thick and thin.

*Name has been changed.

Did you know?

Benefits for mentees include increased levels of self-esteem, self confidence and self-discipline.

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