‘What they see is what they will be…’

Research through community engagement forums proves that there is a dire need to build up mentorship supports that are culturally focused and delivered through an anti-Black racism lens to improve outcomes for Black children and youth. Research indicates that racialized youth are less likely to have natural mentors and are in greater need of formal mentoring programs (Jarjoura, 2013). It also notes a correlation between culturally focused mentoring and positive racial identity, and better academic, psychosocial, and health outcomes for Black adolescents (Rivas-Drake, 2014). It is from this finding that the ‘Because …what they see is what they will be!’ Mentorship program has been developed. This is a regionally specific, culturally relevant, and locally developed bilingual mentorship initiative geared for Black children and youth in targeted communities and open to everyone. The program will engage Black youth and their families and Black community leaders to mentor Black youth over a period of time. 

Brief description of activities: 

Mentorship matching  

• Matching processes may vary but will be based on available evidence of best practices (e.g. consideration of age, interests, cultural and other identities, etc.).  

• Care will be taken to ensure that both mentors and mentees feel comfortable with their match and have opportunities to get to know each other in safe and comfortable environments.  

• Ongoing support to facilitate successful mentorship; activities, problem-solving support, and resources.

Core support programs and services to support improved outcomes for youth participants 

7-module life-skills program for youths aged 12 – 18. The program focuses on modules such as:  

• Black History/Positive Self-Identity  

• Civic engagement, Policy and leadership 

• Financial literacy  

• Mental Well-being through an Afrocentric framework

• Career exploration  

While we accept applications year-round, our classes begin in September.

Youth Leadership (YL) session:  

Builds on the 7 modules with an emphasis on developing the leader within each of the young people participating and encouraging them to apply newly acquired leadership skills to a variety of real life situations. Topics discussed are more advanced including but not limited to:  

Home Life; Planning and forecasting, Money Management and Cash Flow; Street Life /conflict resolution, etc. with mentees given more time and space to discuss issues in depth. Attendees for this session must be between the ages of 16 – 25.  

Peer to Peer (P2P)  

This is a session by which mentees who have passed through the ICB and YL sessions learn how to mentor others within their community, specifically, their peers. Through the program, peer mentors will learn a variety of advanced skills, including public speaking, researching, workshop facilitation, project management, team building, and leadership. The culmination of the program is where peer mentors get to deliver one of the workshops on the I Can Be program.  

Parents in Partnership (PiP):  

A community support and discussion forum for parents and carers. These sessions will provide a conducive environment for parents to discuss pressing issues of Black child upbringing including social networking; positive approaches to schools; centered on self; sex – proactive parenting etc. in a bid to influence the mentorship program and also policy reforms within schools and universities. This will also serve as a platform for moral support for parents with children facing discrimination issues. 

Outcomes anticipated from carrying out the project 

• Building a strong cultural identity for Black youth and especially high-risk youth (youth living in poverty/francophone and rural areas)  

• Reducing disparities for Black children, youth between ages 9-25, and families  

• Increased access to consistent, caring adults 

• Help young Black boys and girls to become strong 

The project addresses 3 major priority themes:

Combatting discrimination through awareness raising and/or digital literacy;  

The diversity awareness workshops that are going to be run with partners and stakeholders will serve as a platform to raise awareness on issues of discrimination for Black youth in various sectors and formulate ways to combat this discrimination.  

Providing opportunities for Black Canadian youth, and empowering them through the promotion of Black history, culture, and identity.  

One of the workshops that will be facilitated during the mentorship program is that of identity and culture. In this workshop, positive narratives of the roles played by Black people throughout history will be highlighted. In this workshop, Black youth will be encouraged to take a look at their mentors and be called upon to take on the call to advocate for Black excellence in order to change the broken narrative portrayed in the media about Black youth being lazy and crime-prone. To this end, the participants will create a booklet that highlights the achievements of the Black youth of Niagara.  

Developing leadership skills and civic engagement.

One of our workshops is on leadership. In this workshop, the Black youth are taught the skills needed to be a leader. They will also be connected to leadership opportunities that exist within the region, through talking to MPs as well as exploring committees where they can serve, namely the Mayor and MP’s advisory councils as well as in-school leadership so that their voice can be heard at the various tables. During the Peer-to-Peer workshops, participants are given an opportunity to lead their counterparts and positively influence them.  

For more information: Please contact Rranice at rranice@toeasniagara.ca

Funded by: Niagara Community Foundation