When children come before Judge Dwayne Woodruff, he sees firsthand what can happen when children don’t have positive role models in their lives. To counteract what he sees in the courtroom, Woodruff serves as an ambassador for the Benefiting African-American Males and Minorities mentoring program, which connects mentors with male students at Northside Urban Pathways Charter School.
“Our kids mess up and we try to do what we can to assist them. It’s programs like this that make it easier for me in my job,” Woodruff said. “I see it everyday. The biggest problem, the kids have, they have nobody in their corner. They don’t have mentors. The majority of the kids, they come in the courtroom and they come alone.”
Now in its third year, the BAAM program will be complimented by the Women In Sync Everywhere program for girls at NUP. Still in the beginning phase, WISE is working to develop a base of mentors for the girls in need at NUP.
“Being a mentor is so very important,” Carmen Robinson said. “It’s not as important as who your mentor is as it is for a young person just to reach out to some adult whether it be male or female and look at the skill sets they have to offer.”
At the third annual mentoring breakfast held Nov. 11, Robinson, who will serve as one of the program’s ambassadors, urged more women to join the program. Allegheny County Councilwoman Amanda Green will also serve as an ambassador for the program, but was unable to attend the breakfast.
“It is an honor to have the opportunity to influence the lives of the next generation of women, and to help them become successful adults,” Green said in a press release.
A few of the mentees in the program attended the breakfast to share stories of their experiences with their mentors. Among them was ninth-grader Pearl Mackey, one of the first students enrolled in WISE.
“The WISE program interested me because I saw it as a great opportunity to learn new things and also see things in an entirely different way,” she said. “I think that this mentoring program is an amazing opportunity for not just me but for other girls who need academic help as well as guidance in their life.”
NUP Chief Executive Officer Linda Clautti illustrated the nurturing environment at her school and how mentoring has enhanced it. Similar to parents coming to the school with concerns about their children, she said students take the initiative to address concerns about their parents.
“How do we know we make a difference? We’ve made an environment in our school where kids are comfortable with getting help and going and asking for it,” Clautti said. “When you get kids in an urban setting, many of whom have backgrounds in poverty, going and asking for help for their parents, you know you’ve taught them the difference between what is a functional environment and what is a dysfunctional environment and how to go about getting help in the right way.”
Mentors meet monthly with their students throughout high school and are asked to carry on the relationship throughout college. The focus of the sessions is on personal development and career goals.
(The next mentor training session is scheduled for Nov. 21. For more information or to become a mentor for either program, call 412-392-4601.)