On Both Sides of the Mentor Fence


Physician, education chairman of 100 Black Men of Los Angeles; has been a mentor in New York and Los Angeles

In the Young Black Scholars program, we cull the best and the brightest who are willing to work to augment their educational experiences.

When you look at the overall purpose of a mentor program, you’re saying to yourself that you have developed some experience in your life and profession and you want to give. That is what attracts most of us.


However, in the relationship that one develops, there’s a very fine line between just mentoring, meaning being supportive and encouraging, and becoming a substitute father, being involved in the finances of the family and the problems that a family would have. A mentor can’t be a substitute father. He cannot get that involved in the family dynamics.


Mentor, government and economics teacher, El Camino Real High School

We certainly don’t bat 100%. What we’re doing is improving the averages.

It’s worthwhile and it’s a place where an individual teacher can get real satisfaction. Working one-on-one, you have a higher chance of getting results and that’s what keeps you going as a teacher. You just need a victory now and then. You need some feedback. You’re in there, you’re teaching. You don’t have to make a Rhodes Scholar. You just improve the kid, try to max him out, reach his potential.


Former mentee and now a sophomore mentor, El Camino Real High School

I had gotten mostly all fails last year. And this year all my grades are up to passing. Now I’m helping other kids. Personally, [having a mentor] meant that I had someone who could help me bring my grades up and also someone who I could talk to in time of need. It was important for me to have both.

I can tell the student that that there are other kids out there just like her, because I felt like I was the only one. I can tell her she doesn’t have to be scared to come talk to me.


Senior, Crenshaw Magnet High School and member, Young Black Scholars; applying to Stanford University

The reason I got involved in Young Black Scholars was to try to find an environment where other students were looking to apply themselves and to succeed, trying to do the same thing that I was trying to do.

The program was very informative about the academic requirements to get into college. It also lets a young African American student know about the environment in college--stereotypes, social differences, philosophical differences.

It’s given me confidence in myself in helping me acknowledge that I have the same potential that other students have in college regardless of race or ethnicity.


Senior, San Pedro High School; applying to Virginia’s Hampton University and other institutions

It’s opened my horizons to a lot of things. We go on field trips to the Jet Propulsion Lab, for example. We go to different colleges. You get a feeling of campus life and the students. That’s really important. You see how comfortable you feel in that environment. We talk about issues that affect us as minorities and as students going on to college.


Mentor, Physical Education teacher, El Camino Real High School.

** As a teacher I’ve had experiences working with pregnant minors, students in juvenile placement. I’ve always found that was my best niche was working with kids at risk. So when they asked about the mentoring program, especially in a one on one situation, I figured that that would be something I would like doing. It would give me an opportunity to help a student.

The basic need for any individual, either an adult or a child, is to have the sense that someone cares for them, the sense of belonging. I think that that’s the strongest point - that someone’s looking out for them, that someone actually cares about them. That’s what happens when you have the mentor/mentee relationship.