Getting to the top takes hard work and dedication. Trying to pass that commitment down to inner-city kids can be a challenge at times, but the What It Takes Foundation believes it has a social media forum that may get through to them.
Pictured Left: NFL Analyst, James "JB" Brown and Heavy Weight Boxer Eddie Chambers among those who encourage WHAT IT TAKES students to stay engaged in their academic careers during panel discussions.
Through a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the What It Takes Foundation is running an "e-mentoring" program that connects inner-city boys with professional black men who will serve as role models on a secure platform powered by icouldbe.org. The program is under way with students in the Philadelphia public schools including Mastery Charter Schools; however, more black professional men are needed to participate. In this pilot program, each of the 200 boys will be paired with a mentor based on career interest. The schools will provide the technical assistance to ensure that the students are on task.
"We are looking for professional black men to engage with the boys and stay connected through technology," said Anthony Martin, founder of the What It Takes Foundation and Urban Youth Racing School. "This will be the first mentoring program in the Philadelphia region to employ technology to conduct web-based training, communication and engagement, particularly with a focus on the young African-American male population."
The e-mentoring program will support caring, structured relationships through vehicles like e-mail, chat rooms and computer conference systems, to connect mentors with their mentees across time and or distance. In addition, the mentors and mentees will have in-person meetings to help cement relationships.
The boys will meet their mentor for the first time in person on Dec. 20th for the next "What It Takes" Symposium, the seventh symposium since 2009. The event's details are being finalized; however, James "JB" Brown, a three-time Emmy winner, and CBS and Showtime's Inside the NFL anchor, will be the moderator. Panelists are being finalized but in attendance there will be high-profile athletes, successful businessmen and entrepreneurs, military officials and professionals.
What It Takes is a national e-mentoring initiative being piloted in Philadelphia and funded by the Knight Foundation through its Black Male Initiative. The $490,000 grant seeks to inspire the young men to become successful, civically engaged adults while also inspiring the men to continue their engagement in bettering their communities. United Way is partnering with the What It Takes Foundation in this project.
An expansion of the What It Takes program, the e-mentoring effort aims to span the social networking, geographic and generational divide between mentors and mentees, while encouraging meaningful relationships. In particular, the program will focus on improving the boys' emotional well-being, career awareness and attitudes toward school while helping black professional men become more involved in bettering their communities.
"At Knight we are looking for ways to use technology to connect and engage citizens and we are also interested in lifting up Black men who are engaged in their communities. The What It Takes e-mentoring program is a convergence of those two interests," said Donna Frisby-Greenwood, Philadelphia program director for Knight Foundation. "We hope this program will also bridge generations and make it easier for highly successful and very busy men to share their knowledge and experience with young men who are trying to figure out how they too become successful."
The mission of What It Takes is to keep inner-city boys interested in school so that they can earn good marks and be successful, while learning how to devise a strategic plan to move forward into their future.
"What It Takes emerged from Urban Youth Racing School's efforts to interest more inner-city students in STEM subjects," said Martin. "Students were excited about racing go-karts and learning math, but they were frustrated they did not know what it takes to be successful young men, who could graduate from high school, go to college and live a good life. What It Takes fills that void by having men, many of whom have struggled through the same path as your young men, reach back and tell them What It Takes."
In addition to teaching young people the ins and outs of the racing industry, Martin helps his kids develop necessary life skills -- integrating valuable components such as education, leadership skills and diversity training into the overall curriculum at UYRS.
For more information on What It Takes E-mentoring and to view the "What It Takes" All-Star PSA, log onto www.whatittakes.me.
To become a mentor, contact Dr. Ashaki Coleman at Dr.Coleman@whatittakes.me.
The nationally acclaimed Urban Youth Racing School, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded by Anthony Martin, a sport marketing expert, is headquartered in Philadelphia and operates a full-service mechanic/race shop and office complex at its headquarters. Under Martin's leadership, the school has introduced inner-city children to the world of motorsports on the foundation of learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
The program enrolls urban boys and girls ages 8 through 18, and is free for all participants. More than 2,800 boys and girls have successfully completed UYRS programs with noticeable improvements in academic achievement. For more information on UYRS log onto www.uyrs.com
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