My Brother's Keeper takes next steps with MENTOR-NBA partnership

President Obama's My Brother's Keeper initiative, aimed at providing opportunities for growth and success for men of color, has launched its newest partnership with MENTOR and the National Basketball Association. 

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
President Barack Obama speaks about the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, at the Walker Jones Education Campus in Washington, Monday, July 21.

“If you need to get everyone’s attention, then partner with someone who has a big bullhorn,” says David Shapiro, CEO of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, after President Barack Obama announced the partnership between MENTOR and the NBA to help inspire more men of color to become mentors.

I’d would say that every organization that relies on mentors to help children of any race just benefitted from the call to volunteer that was relayed via the biggest “bullhorn” on the planet, the US presidential podium.

On Monday, the White House announced a partnership between MENTOR and another big voice in the crowd, the National Basketball Association in support of the President’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative to connect boys and young men of color to resources to achieve success.

For many media outlets, the announcement took a back seat to President Obama awarding the Medal of Honor to Army Staff Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts, and signing executive orders protecting LGBT employees from federal workplace discrimination. 

However, to many volunteer organizations that need more mentors it was a very big deal.

According to Shapiro, MENTOR’s mission is to help young people “get the support they need through quality mentoring relationships to succeed at home, school, and ultimately, work.”

In a phone interview after the announcement, Shapiro said he believes that unlike many other public-private sector service initiatives that have come and gone over the years, the NBA’s five-year partnership commitment gives the program many points in its favor.

“It’s very unusual to see an organization sign-up for a five-year commitment to this type of outreach,” says Shapiro. “That’s not an empty effort.”

Over the next five years, the NBA has pledged to use the NBA Cares global responsibility arm of its operations to promote mentoring via its media outreach, programming, players, and television assets.

“I know it will all translate into more messages and messengers reaching people and helping motivate them to volunteer to mentor,” Shapiro adds. “Like I said, it’s a really big bullhorn with a good message and programs to direct people to follow through with the effort.”

According to Shapiro, one out of every three kids in our country will grow up without a mentor.

Over the past six years as a community organizer and mentor, I’ve seen too many good kids in bad situations who either pulled through thanks to quality mentoring, or fell off the grid and into bad situations in the absence of guidance and support.

Therefore, I have been watching the My Brother’s Keeper initiative since the White House’s initial announcement, 100 days ago, from a community organizer, mentor, and mom’s point of view.

The community chess program that I organize in Norfolk, Va. relies entirely on word of mouth to get people to come and help us to teach a the game of chess and use that game as part of a greater one-on-one mentoring experience that mainly serves urban children of color.

Now, smaller community organizations that work with kids can register their project via the MENTOR web site and volunteers can sign up for projects in their area through the MENTOR or NBA Cares web site

MENTOR and the NBA hope to recruit 25,000 new mentors over five years, with a specific emphasis on recruiting men of color.

When asked about how it felt to meet the President for the announcement, Shapiro fell into an awkward silence. Unfortunately, among the photo opportunities with major sponsors, those representing the actual activity being promoted, including Shapiro, were left out.

Thankfully, he knows the biggest work goes on behind the scenes. “I don’t need to shake someone’s hand or have my photo taken. All I need is to get things done,” says Shapiro.

I’m glad to see that Shapiro and MENTOR are there in the background, organizing, orchestrating, and advocating for kids who really do need all the spotlights, bullhorns, and emotional support that mentors can give them.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to