12th D IN THE PRESS – 14 Years of Consistent Mentoring Work with Youth in SoCal

L-R: Brothers James LaFlourche, Kwame Dow, James Banks, Raphael Irving, Ronnie Walker, Anthony Turner, Derrick Delaney, Donovan Carter, Rodney Jones, Byron Castine, Ricky Lewis, James Henderson, and Jeremy Lacewell.
These four of six gleeful mentees will join the ranks of college students in the fall with brand new lap tops. A total of 6 laptops were given out; two young men could not attend due to prior commitments.

In 2003, brothers of Tau Tau Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and the Omega Educational Foundation, Inc., (OEF) resolved to change the narrative for how to successfully mentor young black boys from the city. These worthy men had just completed their tenth year of producing a successful series of Youth Leadership Conferences (YLCs) held on city college campuses in the area, specifically, Southwest and Compton Colleges.

But, something appeared to be missing in the program; the fraternity became concerned about the adjustment students were making when they went off to college, especially colleges out of state. It seemed after being away from the familiarity of home often for the first time, students would be back home knocking on mom’s door. That’s when Ricky Lewis, Executive Director of the Omega Educational Foundation, Inc., member of Tau Tau Chapter and former 12th District Representative of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., concluded something needed to change.

“We had just completed our 10th annual YLC and wanted to make sure we followed these young men and encouraged them to attend college and graduate,” said Lewis. To accomplish that simple goal, a mentoring program was started by the YLC committee to keep in touch with the students and help with their adjustment at their campus. Brother Ronnie Walker, who at that time was an officer of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), was asked to lead the initiative. “We felt the need for mentoring after putting on the YLC for a few years. I gathered a few dedicated Omega men and we started signing up boys,” said Walker.

Since its beginning, the mentoring program has changed and grown in substantive ways. Student attrition has reduced, students feel less likely that they have been abandoned and the small assistance and support they continue to receive is appreciated. The mentorship program has been a challenge. Walker says that the single most challenging aspect of the mentoring program is the issue of single parenting. “Single parenting is failing because most parents don’t know how to parent,” he said. That led the Youth Leadership Conference (YLC) to add a parenting component to it.

At the time of the inaugural mentorship program, the expressed need was to find a way to create an environment that would stimulate and motivate young men to stay in the Youth Leadership program and, upon graduation from high school attend the college or university of their choice. The mentoring program has seen 300 to 400 mentees since 2003. Over the past 14 years, some 50-100 brothers of Omega have been involved in delivering thousands of hours of direct services to this initiative.

When asked what has worked well and what has not for the mentoring program, Lewis says, “We have had great results; mentees are staying in our program. They are maturing as young men. Their grades have improved. They have constant contact with a mentor. They graduate from HS and they go to college.” Still, too many young men come back home after the 1st year or two of college, “but we are getting better” at what we do, says Lewis. Key features of the mentoring program are: individualized mentoring and constant follow-up with the young men and their parents.

What is the program’s content? In an article released in the July 1st Issue of the International Fatherhood and Mentoring Newsletter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Brother Rev. Dr. Rodney S. Brooks wrote that among other benefits, the mentoring program offers scholarship programs, back to school drives, health education programs and life skills training.

“Young men are taught how to shake hands, make eye contact, tie a necktie and practice chivalry toward women,” he added. Brother Brooks added that “Being around mentors who do just that is a constant motivator!” Brothers Lewis and Brooks emphasized that students are encouraged to:

1. Stay in high school and graduate and manage their time and attitude while in high school,

2. Go to college and graduate. Through our beloved fraternity our youth spend time with college educated professionals who are the embodiment of sacrifice and service.