Mentor program takes first steps

Published 2:00 pm Saturday, February 24, 2007

A program aimed at mentoring children of inmates took its first step toward fulfillment Friday.

A representative from 100 Black Men of Jackson spoke to a group of about 20 people about what it takes to become a mentor.

The Jackson organization is partnering with Adams County Coalition for Children and Youth to set up a mentoring program for children with parents in jail.

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The first step is recruiting adults who are willing to mentor and children to mentor, 100 Black Men Program Director Gary Wynter said. He said he hoped those attending would spread the word to friends and groups in which they are involved.

After that, the participants will go through orientation and training, and lastly, the mentors and mentees will be paired.

The funding for the training is being provided by a federal grant, and the program will be the only one of its kind in the state, Program Director Chuck Mayfield said.

Mayfield said he hoped once the project got off the ground in Adams County that they would be able to extend it into surrounding counties like Jefferson, Wilkinson and Franklin counties.

Statistics have shown that children with incarcerated parents are much more likely to end up in jail themselves.

“The rate of increase (of incarceration) is so much greater, three times higher in Adams County than in others, we need to have the base of operation here,” Mayfield said.

Mentoring takes more than just the hour a week the program requires, 100 Black Men of Jackson Executive Director Sean Perkins said.

“Mentoring is not just picking somebody up on Saturday, talking to them for an hour and dropping them off again,” Perkins said.

“You need to be there consistently.”

Mentors need to develop a connection with their mentees, whether it’s by discussing problems at school or going to a football game together, he said.

Mayfield agreed.

“If it’s 2 in the morning and they need help with something, a mentor is someone they can call,” Mayfield said. “They need to have someone they can lean on and rely on.”

The program will require a one year commitment on the part of both the mentors and youth.