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Program to match youth of color with caring mentors

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Lenora Jarvis-Mackey, president and CEO of River City CDC

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By Cindy Beamon
Albemarle Life Editor

Friday, April 21, 2017

A new initiative to provide mentors for young men of color will kick off next month with the support of several local organizations.

River City Community Development Corporation has received an $18,000 grant to launch the program designed to provide stable and caring mentors for African-American, Hispanic, Latino and Asian youth ages 16 to 17 in need of positive role models.

"There is a sense of urgency to save our young men from the many distractions of poverty, gang violence, crime and mental health," River City CDC president and CEO Lenora Jarvis-Mackey stated in a news release. "There is a unique challenge to bridge the path to success in education, work, and life."

Jarvis-Mackey said River City CDC's YouthBuild program was fortunate to gain funding at the tail end of the My Brother's Keeper Initiative that began under former President Barack Obama. The program was designed to help young men transition into adulthood and improve their chances for success in academic and workplace pursuits.

She said the YouthBuild BRIDGE Mentoring Initiative will help up to 20 young men at first, but she hopes the program's momentum will keep it going after the funding runs out. The grant is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The initiative kicks off with a ceremony on May 4 at 3 p.m. at the YouthBuild building at 303 W. Ehringhaus St. River City CDC, along with Elizabeth City State University's athletic department, the City of Elizabeth City's Police Department and The Mount of Elizabeth City, plan to partner in enacting the new program.

Jarvis-Mackey said the partners will be helpful in recommending youth who need mentors and in providing mentors for youth.

"We are trying to get all facets of the community involved, and so far, we have had a good response," Jarvis-Mackey said.

She said the new program will add a new dimension to YouthBuild, which provides education, counseling and job skills training to unemployed young American adults, generally high school dropouts, ages 16 to 24.

Grant funds will be used for training of mentors and to provide activities for one-on-one pairings of mentors with youth.

Jarvis-Mackey said she knows from personal experience how helpful a mentor can be in guiding youth in a positive direction. Jarvis-Mackey said she would not have gone to college without the help of the late Currituck high school teacher Geraldine Burke. Her parents could not afford to send her, Jarvis-Mackey recalled, but Burke encouraged her and even provided a place for her to live so that she could attend college.

Jarvis-Mackey said she is hoping the BRIDGE program will offer similar encouragement to young men in the community.

She pointed to statistics that support the urgency of that mission. In 2012, homicide was the leading cause of death for African American males between the ages of 10 and 24, states a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"If the current trends continue, one in three young African American men will serve time in prison,"" states a River City CDC news release.

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