Mentoring has long been recognized as an effective method for breaking the cycle of violence in the African-American community. However, despite the proven benefits of this solution, many organizations find it difficult to recruit mentors to work with youth in some of Pittsburgh’s most violent communities.
|POSITIVE PEER CONNECTION—James Drew Moorefield welcomes guests. (Photos by J.L. Martello)
New Birth Project, a start-up organization that has been in development for three years, is looking to change that. With their mission of ending violence, especially among young adults, they are actively working to recruit positive role models from across the city, even those who previously led lives of crime.
“In the past few years we’ve been working to help young adults with the struggles they face,” said James Drew Moorefield. “The idea is to get young adults, who despite their struggles, are trying to do something with their life.”
On March 25, New Birth Project hosted Positive Peer Connection at the Bistro, a dinner where guests heard a variety of testimonials from people of all walks of life to show that anyone can reach success. Among them were several who had taken wrong turns in their lives including Elder Robert James who currently serves as the pastor of the Original Church of God Deliverance Center.
“Before coming here, I lived a life of crime. In fact, I did 12 years in prison,” James said. “It was only by the grace of God that I’m here.”
Other honored guests included Dwayne Woodruff and his wife Joy Maxberry Woodruff who are no strangers to mentoring. Through his involvement in the Northside Urban Pathways Benefitting African-American Males mentoring program, Judge Woodruff has become a locally recognized spokesman for how a mentor can positively impact a child’s life.
“Everyday in my court I see young men and young women come into my courtroom who have made a bad decision,” Woodruff said. “We want to make sure we have someone there to encourage them to do the right thing so they don’t end up in my courtroom.”
In her address to the youth in attendance, keynote speaker Mother Lousie Payne, a teacher at Harty Bible School, touched on the historical significance of leaders such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and President Barack Obama.
“I want to talk to you young folk. Many sacrifices have been made for you. You must go to school and you must graduate,” Payne said. “We’ve all suffered many defeats in our life.”
Guests also heard testimonials from several young adults who offered their time to serve as mentors to other youth. Many of them identified their family as the mentors in their life but said others are not as fortunate.
“I’m very excited about reaching out and if my story can be an inspiration to someone I would really like that,” said Jessica Owens. “People always look at the scenario and they shake their head, but they don’t do anything about it. Mentoring breaks that barrier. It opens up doors.”
“I believe in mentoring. I feel it’s important in our community. I’ve done a lot of mentoring so I know it’s important to do. I feel like it can be a leading factor in changing that violent mentality,” said Brittany Lay. “A lot of people don’t know any better because they don’t see any better. There are people who look like them who are making it.”