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Program targeting African American boys launches an e-mentoring guide

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

by Naveed Ahsan

Urban Youth, a science and technology-based program that targets urban students by providing educational and mentoring opportunities, will release the Lessons Learned from What it Takes E-Mentoring guide at a panel discussion at High School of the Future today from 4 to 5 p.m.

National commentator and former CNN news anchor Soledad O’Brien will moderate the discussion about e-mentoring, and afterward screen her latest documentary, Black in America 6: Great Expectations,” which focuses on why Black students are falling behind in math and reading at such significant rates.

The panel discussion is invitation only, but the screening is free and open to the public, with seating available on a first come, first served basis. Attendees can RSVP for the screening in advance.

The e-mentoring guide, which can be downloaded, is a resource of the What It Takes e-mentoring program. Urban Youth launched the e-mentoring program three years ago to build relationships with professional African American men and Black boys in Philadelphia using social media outlets such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. The guide provides information about implementing technology-influenced mentoring initiatives into an existing mentoring program or other programs that serve at-risk youth, particularly African American males.

Anthony Martin, founder of the program and a sports marketing expert, said that Internet use enables the mentors to “meet the boys where they are.”

“Kids are always on social media. This shows that the Internet can also have its benefits and it’s not always about playing games,” he said.

Urban Youth started 15 years ago as the Urban Racing School, an effort to engage more inner city students in science, technology, engineering, and math through the use of motorsports. In 2011, Urban Youth received a $491,000 grant from the James L. Knight Foundation to create the What It Takes e-mentoring program. About 100 men and 200 boys from various Philadelphia District and charter schools are currently participating in the program.

Martin said that Urban Youth is hoping to expand the e-mentoring program nationally starting next year with assistance from the Office of Naval Research and the Naval Sea Systems Command, both of which began working with Urban Youth in September 2012. Since then, programs have been provided for students to learn about fuel injection, aircraft carriers, shock testing, and alternate fuel usage.

Naveed Ahsan is an intern at the Notebook.

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