Written by Kelsey Lineburg, Senior AmeriCorps member proudly serving on the Irene W. and C. B. Pennington Foundation team at Kenilworth Science and Technology School. 

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a city-wide mentoring training hosted by The Urban Congress of Baton Rouge.  The Urban Congress is a local nonprofit organization that works to “establish long-term, systemic progress towards enriching the state of African American males in Baton Rouge”.  The goal of this event, “MentoringBR”, was to train 1,000 community members to serve as mentors, specifically for young men of color, within the city. The Urban Congress has identified “7 Key Goals” of the organization, and this training was intended to work towards Goal #1: “Build upon existing African-American leadership skills by focusing on parenting/family, mentoring, and community service”.

The training was divided into three modules, each focusing on different skills and tools necessary for becoming effective mentors within the community.  During the first module, we learned about how the role of our personal identities (ex. race, class, sexual orientation) affects our mentoring relationships.  Within the training space, we were divided into smaller focus groups of 5-10 people to engage in meaningful discussions and activities.  During the first module, we participated in a “privilege walk” with the people in our group.  The goal of this module was to give us tools to help our mentees learn about the cultural backgrounds of others, cope with prejudice or discrimination, and explore racial and ethnic identities.  During the second module, we were equipped with strategies to assist our mentees in identifying and tapping into their social capital.  We worked together to identify social capital natural resources—such as churches, schools, nonprofits, and libraries—within Baton Rouge for our young men of color to connect with.  During the third module, we learned strategies to help our mentees find their “spark” and develop a growth mindset.  The goal of this module was to acquire tools and strategies to help young men of color develop a love for learning to help them achieve their goals.

Below are some reflections from community members that attended the MentoringBR training:

“I found the mentoring conference to be eye-opening and challenging in the best way. It was a valuable experience that I recommend for anyone seeking to serve in our schools and/or community. I left more confident to serve and more curious to understand.”

"Attending the Urban Congress mentoring event was an amazing experience. It was great to be able to be out with the community, and learning new strategies on how I can help my students was a highlight for me!" 

“I thought the mentoring training was incredibly impactful.  Given the low graduation rates for Black and Latino boys, the adults who are mentoring them need to be well equipped with the cultural competence to most effectively reach them. The presenters came with the resources to train individuals with varying levels of background knowledge of social justice issues, and their mentees will be affected positively because of it.”

Overall, I truly enjoyed the training, and I believe that I am better equipped to serve as a mentor within Baton Rouge.  I am excited to continue learning and growing as a service leader in City Year.  I have already begun implementing some of the practices I learned with the students I serve at Kenilworth Science and Technology School, and I look forward to future community engagement opportunities with The Urban Congress.

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