Black Male mentoring program making a difference in the lives of South Florida youth
By K. Chandler
In the face of extremely high juvenile incarceration rates in our state, coupled with disproportionately high school drop-out rates, one man has ‘stepped up to the plate’ in an effort to make a difference in the lives of young Black males living in our area
In a recent interview with Steve White the founder of From Black Boy to Black Man: What Does It Take? a personal development program for Black males ages 12 and up, White said that from the time he was a child he was aware of the spiritual calling that God placed on his life to uplift the condition of Black people. And so in 1993 he started the Black Male mentoring program.
Another reason propelled him as well.
In the early 90’s, Steve’s older brother Glen, succumb to AIDS after years of intravenous drug use and prison time for crimes he committed to feed his drug addiction.
“For many people, drugs are a way to deal with underlying issues in their lives and to self- medicate and deaden the pain they’re feeling,” said Steve.
“Growing up, I didn’t know how to deal with the underlying causes that led Glen to get caught up in drugs. As I grew older, I began to understand. But I still couldn’t save him, and that’s hard to deal with, even to this day.
Unwilling to sit back and watch other young Black men get sucked down that same disastrous hole, White started a mentoring program to help break the cycle of destruction
When asked what it took for young boys to make the successful transition from boyhood to true manhood, White said that he would defer to the actual words of the youth enrolled in the program who’d earlier been asked to name the characteristics that defined a real man
“A real man,” the youth concurred, “is responsible; takes care of his family; works hard; gets his education, and is a role model for other young men.
“In all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve found the boys to be very consistent in how they characterize a ‘real man,’ which is very interesting because it gives you an indication of their mindset,” stated White, adding, “And that’s the whole purpose of this mentoring program – to change the mindset of young Black males. We have a saying in the program that summarizes this belief very well: ‘The key to manhood is to unlock your mind.’
Noting that a lot of organizations focus on keeping young boys busy with sports and other activities, White said that while he didn’t have a problem with that, his focus or philosophy was to “lay down a foundation designed to last a lifetime.
To do that, the mentoring program, which meets twice a week for 2-hour sessions, has devised a 6-point program of self-development. The first component is to address the is-sue of self-esteem among young Black males
“What I want them to do is change their value system; their priorities, while elevating their self-esteem and self-respect. Self-esteem is their sense of self worth, and it can lend itself to negative behaviors. But if they have high self-esteem and value themselves, then they are less likely to involve themselves in negative behaviors.
Part of the second component of the program is to introduce them to their African history and cultural heritage to build up their knowledge and understanding that they come from a tradition of excellence. “This way they know that they are far more than just athletes and rappers,” said White.
The third component of the program deals with how to be successful in school, and by ex-tension, successful in life
“We address their attitudes toward school, stressing the value of education and how it will benefit them in the long run with respect to their quality of life. We teach them that it doesn’t matter if the teacher doesn’t like them, or they don’t like the teacher, they are there to learn and everything else is secondary. I tell them that regardless of how they feel, the teacher is going to get paid, whether you like them or not, so you might as well ‘keep it moving,’ and focus on learning instead.
“To help them with their studying habits, we try to instill practical tips to apply while they’re in school. These tips include sitting in front of the classroom, asking questions if they don’t understand something, seeking tutoring help when necessary, staying awake in class, and managing their time effectively to get the most out of each school day.
A fourth component of the Black Male mentoring program stresses critical thinking skills, and learning how to make rational decisions while dealing with the emotions of fear and anger.
“We discuss why it is so important to always think before they act, and ask themselves ‘is it worth it,’ before they make a move. We teach them to weigh the positives and negatives of all their actions, so they fully comprehend the long-term and short-term consequences of their decisions,” noted White.
The fifth topic covered in the program is the impact that television programs, music and movies have on them. “What I’m trying to get them to see is how they are being manipulated and programmed by the media through images and messages that they are exposed to on a daily basis. We also discuss their attitudes toward money and material things
“What we’re trying to do is to get them to analyze and critically evaluate the messages and images they’re being bombarded with, as well as evaluate how Black males and Black females are portrayed through these mediums. By doing this, it forces them to start looking at why all the songs focus on sex, drugs and violence, and who is really benefitting from this
The sixth component is en-titled: Identifying Who You Are, and focuses on helping young boys identify their gifts, talents and purpose in life, stressing short-term and long-term goals.
“They actually write their entrees down in a workbook, describing how many of these goals they have accomplished along with devising a timeframe for reaching the rest of their goals. And they must include a roadmap of the course they plan to take to achieve these goals
“Seeing it in black and white makes it more concrete for them, not just some abstract thought or dream. And all of them will tell you that I constantly stress that if they don’t have goals in place, they’re just dreaming, and we all know that ‘nothing comes to a dreamer but a dream.’” White pointed out
Prior to enrolling youth in the self-development course, White holds an Orientation session for the boys and their parents, introducing them to the program and its expectations in an effort to get them all on the same page, and to help the parents reinforce what is being taught through the program
Similarly, graduation day is also a family event. One graduation was even held in the Belle Glade City Commission Chambers during an official government meeting to underscore the significance of the pro-gram. Another time, the Fort Pierce police chief came and personally congratulated the young men, recalled White
Over the years, White estimates that hundreds of young males have gone through his program. He has also been recruited by community organizations, churches, police departments and schools from Fort Pierce to Belle Glade, to Fort Lauderdale. Additionally, the fraternity Phi Beta Sigma refers all of their young protégés to White’s program.
White also works with churches in Broward County and Palm Beach County teaching men how to conduct the mentoring program so they too can recruit boys, and using course materials as guidelines, they can replicate the work started in 1993
Among some of Steve’s proudest accomplishments is the fact that his own son went through the program, and along with his childhood buddies, comprised the first graduating class.
Also many of the men he’s worked with, and have since gone on to college, frequently come back to see him. “They often come and tell me the role I played in their success. There’s no better feeling.”
In another instance, a juvenile judge in Palm Beach County even recommended his program to two youthful offenders, giving them the option of enrolling in White’s program or going to juvenile detention.
Currently, White resides in Riviera Beach with his wife of 35 years, Ann. The couple has two children, Steve II, 34, a successful network security consultant, and Kimberly, 28, who works in administration at a hospital in DeKalb County, Ga.
It might be noted, that in addition to operating a hugely successful mentoring program, White is also the owner of a publishing company called Protective Hands, specializing in works by first-time authors, children’s books, self-help books, memoirs, poetry, history, and books on spiritual development.
For more information contact Steve White at: (561) 841-4990; email: email@example.com; website: savingblackchildren.com.