This article is presented in partnership with CA Lottery.
Some of the best educators are the ones who bring the lesson of life experience into the classroom. Sometimes, the learning experience is enhanced because we can respond to those we more easily relate to. This is especially true for a group of male teachers who have dedicated themselves to the power of dream-building and mentoring students in the Bay Area.
For more than 14 years, Darryl Richardson has been putting in hours in the classroom to provide guidance to African-American students in the Oakland Unified School District. Richardson also has weekly classes on the campuses of Oakland Tech and UC Berkeley as well as in Pittsburg, Calif.
“Real Men Give Real Time” is the motto of 100 Black Men of the Bay Area and it’s the real time they give that’s inspired and made a difference in thousands of young lives.
The 100 Black Men of the Bay Area mentoring program is structured to bring about a trusting relationship between members of the organization and youth in the community. Stepping into the classroom and working one-on-one with students, the program offers multiple dimensions. Guidance, support, coaching and encouragement are each aimed at developing and improving the competence and character of high school and college students.
What They See Is What They Will Be
Teachers who can understand students’ struggles motivate and lead by example. Richardson says the message of the 100 Black Men’s mentoring success in the classroom is “what they see is what they will be.”
“When they see African-American men from different industries and different walks of life, they have the opportunity,” says Richardson. “Some of these kids never get to see a black man in a tie, not in their whole lives. So now they get to see what they can potentially be, that’s our basic message.”
The subject matter is not only math, science and reading for academic success. The program also provides for life success with courses on finance and career development. Richardson says the success for young African-American men includes excellent scholastic achievement, communication skills and self-esteem building. Part of the challenge is showing these young men real-life success stories.
“They might meet an engineer, a dentist, a doctor, a scientist or a business owner,” says Richardson. “They see a variety of people, encouraging them to say, ‘I can be what I want to be. I see people who look like me.’”
Success Measured By Student Achievement
Last year, Richardson and his group partnered with UC Berkeley to send 22 kids to the university’s summer math and science programs, a rewarding experience according to the young men.
“Two of the students who are seniors this year got accepted into colleges including Morehouse,” Richardson says.
With an 89 percent success rate of students entering college, the Berkeley program remains a top choice for the organization. To ensure those with low grade-point averages participated in the Berkeley program, the 100 Black Men program also worked with students to get their grades up during summer school.
Over this past school year, mentors from the 100 Black Men have helped more than 1,000 kids. Although intense academic projects such as science and literacy make up the majority of the curriculum, the organization makes time for fun too. These bonding activities include dining at fine restaurants and a friendly paintball competition.
If there is a final thought, Richardson implores all educators to call on the “teacher in you.” When one sees a child achieve something they thought they could not do, the reward is well worth the time.
“It is important for people to realize that it does not take a lot of commitment to give just a few hours to mentor,” said Richardson.
The 100 Black Men of the Bay Area Mentoring Program is based on the National Mentoring Program.
Nicole Bailey-Covin is a public school education writer for Examiner.com.