From left, Atrayus Goode, Kanalyn Jackson, and Associate of Youth & Public Policy Sontee Dean display a love for their work through genuine smiles (Picture courtesy of the Youth Mentoring Collaborative website).
Grinning from ear-to-ear for a zany caricature, little girls patiently await the result of their goofy expressions.
It’s Saturday October 7, and the Youth Mentoring Collaborative (YMC) is holding its annual symposium at the Durham Conference Center. Kid-catered activities line the halls of the center and excitable teens and tweens waste no time taking advantage of the fun.
Dedicated to supporting mentoring initiatives across North and South Carolina, the conference serves as an opportunity for mentors and mentees from both states to come together in a collaborative setting.
While not a mentoring program in and of itself, the YMC supports mentoring initiatives by providing resources and funds. Its primary focus are at-risk Black and brown youth across the Carolinas, according to its website.
The practice of mentorship, in and of itself, is a relationship-building practice, said YMC Vice President of Youth Programs and Culture Kanalyn Jackson. “It gives children the chance to interact with an adult that leads by example,” she said.
Mentors are, most often, assigned an individual child, giving those who lack an exemplary adult figure in their life a chance to interact with someone with their well-being in mind, explained mentor Corrine McKoy.
“Mentoring allows kids to dream and provides them with the opportunities they may not have otherwise had,” she said.
Having worked with the program since its founding, Ms. Jackson understands firsthand the value of mentoring initiatives.
“It exposes kids to certain things they may not have seen,” she said.
Atrayus Goode, President and CEO of the YMC, credited his mentor for much of his individual growth.
“Mentoring was key to my development,” he said.
He hopes to ensure that the next generation of young people are afforded the same opportunities under the guidance of a mentor.
For more mentorship opportunities to arise, however, organizations like the YMC that provide direct support to mentorship initiatives will require continued aid and leverage.
With the Durham primary elections on the horizon, Ms. Jackson hopes to instill in the Bull City’s new leadership the importance of supporting mentoring initiatives. Although a nonpartisan organization, the YMC hopes to work with city legislatures to acquire funds and resources, she said.
While Bull City is a town with a history of gun violence, Jackson explained, “Mentoring initiatives can help curb this,” she said.
Mentoring, ultimately, connects young people to the resources needed to support their mental well-being and all-around health, according to the YMC’s site. It’s this support that gives children the confidence they need for the future.
And its effect doesn’t go unnoticed.
Referring to a recent situation wherein a community member had been lost, McKoy reflected on a time where she witnessed the impact of mentoring first-hand.
“A little girl wrote a thank you note expressing her gratitude,” she said. “It was just really impactful.”
Moments of “gratitude” are what has kept McKoy so invested in the practice of mentorship.
“I haven’t looked back since,” McKoy said.
As Jackson hopes, the symposium will only ensure that initiatives continue to receive the support they need.
“It’s a time for them to come together,” she said. “And, hopefully, bring back what they have learned to their own organizations.”
While today is a mere part of the work Jackson hopes the YMC will continue to accomplish, there is so much more she feels it can do.
“We want to increase civic engagement, specifically, and help young people learn how to be more civically engaged,” Jackson said.
Jackson also hopes, through funding provided by the YMC and specific experiences like the symposium, young people will be able to broaden their connections.
“We’ve had several previous mentors come back,” she said.
With fifty more members in attendance than the former, this year’s symposium surpasses accomplishments of previous years’. And Jackson predicts further engagement with the years to come.
So, while face paint and a raucous cornhole tournament may appear to be the main attraction at today’s symposium, speak to anyone present, and what you’ll find below the surface is far more impactful.
Edited by Siya and Emmy