Studies consistently show that the graduation rate for minorities is lower than the national average at all academic levels. Mentoring is one of the ways to close the gap and put youth on a path toward success. Mentoring minority students positively impacts academic and career outcomes by helping students overcome self doubt and other obstacles.

Mentoring minority students at the university level

When faced with adversity, students that don’t have support can get lost. Mentors help students understand the challenges that they face and identify the right resources to overcome these challenges. One example is tutoring: because courses in university are more difficult, many students need tutoring to succeed. But first-generation students may not realize the importance of tutoring or may be reluctant to pursue it due to stigma. Moreover, some students just don’t know how to find a tutor. Mentors can help with problem solving to make sure students get the help they need before they fall behind. This is crucial, because once a student starts to fall behind, it’s hard to catch up.

Mentoring minority students can help ensure that they take advantage of all of the opportunities the university environment offers. For example, by getting to know professors on a personal level, students can gain access to their networks and open up professional opportunities. Many first generation college students do not realize the value in interacting with professors outside the classroom. They may not go to a professor’s office hours, because they don’t want to bother them. Mentoring empowers first generation students by helping them see opportunities and feel confident taking advantage of them.

The Bridge Builders LA approach to mentoring minority students focuses on helping students anticipate and overcome adversity. We believe that minority students should view college as a bridge to the rest of their lives. Getting through college requires discipline; students have to go the extra mile to succeed. Minority students should anticipate difficulties and setbacks and come in with a mindset that will allow them to be successful.

Anticipating adversity and having access to mentors can address some of the gaps between low income and first generation students and their peers, ultimately improving graduation rates for black males and other minority student groups.

Mentoring minority students in middle school and senior high school

The BRIDGE BUILDERS FOUNDATION “THRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE” program seeks to empower youth with values, attitudes, and strategies necessary to thrive in school, at home, in the community, and in the workplace by exposing them to (1) Success Roles, (2) Role Models, and (3) Mentors. The BBF Mentoring program is exceptional because it has a robust pool of African American men, of varied ages, and from varied career and life disciplines, committed to bring about change. Men who can serve as exemplary “role models,” but have a commitment that expands beyond simply engaging youth of color in the school and community setting, and extends to serving as “mentors.”

The program provides Critical Mentoring using both “Group” and “Team” mentoring formats, while emphasizing a “Strength-Based” approach. Critical mentoring is a term coined by the My Brothers Keepers Alliance (MBK). Mentoring is provided weekly, at both the middle and senior high school levels, within Los Angeles Unified School District (King-Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science), and Lynwood Unified School District (Lynwood Middle School).

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