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Magic of Having a Mentor: Witnessing Transformation in Action

On a Journey of Hope and Change: How I turned Heartbreak into Action 🌱 From the depths of personal loss, including the tragic loss of over 20 young lives to fentanyl, to creating a beacon of hope. It's a tale of resilience, purpose, and the incredible power of mentorship. Join me in a movement that's not just saving lives but shaping futures. 🚀


Male mentor talking with young male mentee

This week, I had the profound opportunity to witness the magic of mentorship firsthand. In my city, there's a program called Boys to Men, co-founded by an amazing man named Joe Sigurdson that embodies the power of this crucial support. Watching these mentors interact with their youth and hearing about the significant impact the program has had was both amazing and inspiring.


Mentorship, I was reminded, can be a lifesaver. In today's world, many young people grow up without mentors or even parental guidance. This absence is particularly acute in underserved communities. Statistics are telling approximately 50% of foster youth in the United States become entangled in the criminal justice system within two years of aging out of foster care. This stark reality underscores the challenges they face without adequate support and resources.


Furthermore, about 1 in 3 young people grow up without a mentor, as reported by organizations like MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. This gap between those who need mentorship and those who receive it highlights the urgent need for more programs and volunteers, especially for vulnerable communities.


Group of young multicultural males standing together in a jail cell facing a camera

Mentorship plays a critical role in breaking the cycles of death and incarceration that too often ensnare at-risk youth. It's a bulwark against drug addiction and a lifeline preventing lives from being tragically cut short.


Who Am I and What's My Why?


As a young person, I was surrounded by talented and creative friends who, like me, desperately needed someone to guide and foster our talents. Without this guidance, we taught ourselves, often misusing our abilities in unproductive ways. Today, I am a survivor of the streets. Streets that took the lives of most of my best friends before they were 30 years old. Out of my eight closest friends, only four of us are still alive today.


Picture of Armand King with Christopher LeFall and Demitrius Harrison

Why Am I an Expert in Mentorship?


My expertise in mentorship comes from personal experience. Like my best friends growing up, I was an at-risk youth in dire need of guidance. For over a decade now, I've worked as a mentor to hundreds of at-risk youths and adults. Created several programs and initiatives that have proven extremely valuable, and lifesaving for many youths who would have fallen through the cracks of the system. I have trained mentors and developed programs that empower and equip them to be more effective in their roles.


Picture of Armand King with Youth Advisors at the YESS Event in Long Beach California

The Data and Real Stories Behind the Need


Photo of Anthony Mcgraff
Rest in Peace Anthony Mcgraff

In 2021, I experienced a year of profound loss. Each month, I lost someone dear to me, either to murder or fentanyl poisoning. Several of these individuals were young mentees. The COVID-19 crisis exacerbated mental health issues, leading to increased youth violence, drug use, and overdoses. We are in a state of emergency that requires an empowered force of mentors.


From this pain and loss, I created the Walk With Me Impact youth mentoring curriculum. This tool is designed to help mentors become more effective and provide anyone working with at-risk male youth the resources to truly resonate with them. It's about educating young people to prevent them from falling into toxic lifestyles.


Mentorship is more than just a support system; it's a beacon of hope and a pathway to a better future. Let's rise to the challenge and become the mentors our youth desperately need.


In the face of these challenges, the Walk With Me Impact curriculum emerges not just as a response, but as a proactive solution. Designed with the realities of at-risk male youth in mind, it bridges the gap between need and support. It's a curriculum born from real-life experiences, tailored to resonate with those it aims to help.


Screenshot of WWMI Resource Books

This curriculum is more than just a set of guidelines; it's a lifeline. It provides mentors with the tools and insights necessary to reach out to these young individuals effectively. Through this program, mentors learn how to engage with youths, understand their struggles, and guide them towards making positive life choices. It's about creating a safe space where these young people can learn, grow, and thrive.


The urgency for such a tool has never been greater. The rise in youth violence and drug use, especially in the wake of the pandemic, calls for immediate and effective intervention. Our curriculum is designed to address these issues head-on, equipping mentors with the knowledge and skills to make a real difference.


In essence, the Walk With Me Impact youth mentoring curriculum is more than just an educational tool; it's a movement. It's about empowering mentors to be the change agents in their communities. It's about giving them the capacity to turn their compassion and concern into effective action. Through this program, we aim to create a ripple effect of positive change, one mentor and one youth at a time.


As we move forward, our vision becomes clear. We see a world where every at-risk youth has access to a mentor who understands them, guides them, and believes in them. A world where the cycle of violence and addiction is broken, and where every young person has the opportunity to realize their full potential. This is the world we are striving to create through the Walk With Me Impact curriculum. And with every mentor we train and every youth we reach, together we are one step closer to making this vision a reality.


Time to Take Action


Become a mentor. This isn’t just a call to offer occasional advice. It’s a call to be a beacon of hope, a stable figure in the tumultuous world of a young person who might be lacking guidance and support. Your involvement could be the pivotal factor that steers a life away from the brink of despair and onto a path of potential and promise.


Black male staring at the sky

Think about the youth within your reach – in your community, your neighborhood, perhaps even within your family circles. They are the hidden gems waiting to be discovered and polished. By volunteering to be a mentor, you are committing to being an active participant in sculpting a brighter future, not just for one individual, but for our society.


The commitment doesn’t require extraordinary skills – just an open heart, a listening ear, and the willingness to share your life experiences. It's about showing up consistently and proving through actions that every young person is worthy of attention, respect, and opportunities.


Your involvement can take many forms – from formal mentoring programs to informal guidance. It could be as simple as regular meet-ups for coffee, offering academic help, or just being there to listen and offer advice when life gets overwhelming for them.


Remember, mentorship is a two-way street. The experience is not only transformative for the mentee but equally enriching for the mentor. You’ll find in this journey, your own perspectives broadening, understanding deepening, and the satisfaction that comes from contributing to someone’s growth is unparalleled.


So, I urge you, take this step. Reach out to local schools, community centers, or youth organizations and ask how you can get involved. Research mentoring programs where your skills and experiences can be best utilized. Every small step you take can lead to significant leaps in a young person’s life.


Let's not wait until another life is lost to violence or addiction. Let's not delay until another bright future is dimmed. The time to act is now. Be the mentor you wish you had, be the change you want to see. Together, we can rewrite stories, rebuild lives, and reshape futures. Join me in this vital mission to nurture, guide, and empower our youth – the architects of tomorrow.


In closing, I extend my deepest gratitude to Joe Sigurdson and all the dedicated mentors at Boys to Men for their unwavering commitment and transformative work. Witnessing your program in action has been a source of immense inspiration and a powerful reminder of the impact mentorship can have. Your efforts in guiding and supporting the youth are nothing short of heroic.


I also want to acknowledge and thank mentors all around the world like Anton Noble in the UK, who have embarked on this selfless journey of helping others. Whether you are guiding a young person through the challenges of life, offering wisdom and support, or simply being a consistent and caring presence, your contributions are invaluable. You are the unsung heroes, often working quietly in the background, yet your influence resonates deeply in the lives you touch and extends far beyond what the eye can see.


Your dedication to mentorship is a testament to the human spirit's capacity for kindness, compassion, and making a real difference in the world. Thank you for being the guiding stars in the lives of so many. May your example inspire many more to join this noble cause, for in mentoring others, we not only enrich their lives but also enrich our own, creating a legacy of positivity and hope that lasts for generations to come.

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