This summer, a new program focused on tapping into and better supporting mentorship opportunities in Philadelphia is set to launch.
Backed by a $400,000 investment from the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, the program is led by several people involved in the BME Challenge, an effort to recognize, connect and invest in black males from all walks of life who engage others in making communities stronger.
Philly Roots aims to scale up the quality of grassroots mentoring by making sure mentors who work with young people are best equipped to help them achieve their goals.
Philly Roots brings together those already working on issues around mentoring in the Philadelphia community, like Rising Sons, an after school program where recent college graduates and college students 18-25 mentor young boys. Alex Peay received a BME Leadership Award earlier this year to help strengthen its operations. Rising Sons’ principal operations officer Mubarek Lawrence was brought in to co-chair Philly Roots. Brandon Brown, director of Youth & Family Services at Nu Sigma Youth Services, which advocates for improving the lives of young people in the community, is also a member of the Philly Roots Steering Committee.
One of the biggest factors for a young person’s success is having caring adults in their lives, said Steve Vassor, senior manager for quality assurance at the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, who serves as Lawrence’s co-chair for Philly Roots. It’s why the organization he works for provided support to help launch the program. Vassor says the BME Challenge was crucial in helping bring the right people together to help build the program. He says it’s one of the few opportunities he’s been a part of that brings black men together from across different backgrounds:
“We need more of these opportunities for black men to come together and collaborate across their affiliations. BME is fantastic, it is one of the best networks and collaborations I have seen in a long time that provides such opportunities.”