Mentors Ramp Up For Kids
By Dianne Anderson
To get into the heads of the Z Generation, today’s most challenged teens, requires more than a one size fits all approach. It takes a lot of style, something that Sigma Beta Xi has more than enough to go around.
Programming got off the ground six years ago, and since then students have been served in Rialto, Moreno Valley, Perris, Hemet, and Riverside campuses.
“We’re on 15 different campuses in the Inland Empire, and we mentor 200 kids every week,” said Corey Jackson, founder and CEO for Sigma Beta Xi, Inc.
Today, he said the organization is a half million dollar nonprofit employing many professionalized mentors in part time jobs.
A good part of the program’s success is also that he and other graduates that run the programming are still young enough to relate to the local kids.
“Definitely, we come from the same communities and schools that they come from, and we were mentored exactly the same way,” Jackson said.
Working with sixth through 12th graders, they also serve a large swath of need, specifically targeting at-risk students, kids in foster care, and students on probation. Jackson said 100 percent of their Sigma Beta Xi graduates have gone on to college.
Some choose the military, or attend community college while working a side job. They have access to their mentors going into college and a career coach.
“We tell them that taking a break or getting a minimum wage job is not an option,” he said. “They have to have a plan before they graduate.”
Back in 1998 when Jackson was just a sophomore at Rialto High School, he was the first student recruited into the Sigma Beta club by recently retired Rialto teacher, Ernest Rhone IV. The club was initially named after the national program created by Phi Beta Sigma.
Over time, local programming expanded, graduates went on to start their careers, and realized how valuable the experience was for their own lives. They created the nonprofit to help other students find the way.
Jackson, who is also president of the 100 Black Men of the Inland Empire, said that word of mouth is also growing that program, which offers academics, and much more.
Mentoring Black teens today is critical. The risk is real, and growing at an alarming rate.
“We know African American kids suffer from anxiety and anger, depression rates, but that goes with the territory. Being Black in America, you’re going to have that daily feeling because this country was not made for us,” he said.
Recently, “the 100” finished its Saturday Academy at Cal Baptist University where students received two months of guidance in mentoring, education, economic empowerment, and health and wellness.
With the start of the new school year, they are continuing the partnership at the university, and holding regular weekly mentoring sessions at the nearby Chemawa Middle School.
The 100 BMIE program is based on a strategic model of the 100 Black Men of Orange County’s Passport to the Future program, under the charter founder, Dr. Thomas Parham.
In the Inland Empire program, local boys will meet Saturdays twice a month, which includes a Rites of Passage, along with a national office agreement with the Boy Scouts of America to extend partnerships in local programming.
The 100 BMIE serves about 20 kids with weekly mentoring, and launches Saturday Academy by the end of August. In October, they will also collaborate with other organizations for a Million Man Meditation in Riverside focused on health, introduction to yoga meditation and mindfulness.
He said that they are taking applications for their Saturday Academy, which is open for African American boys across the Inland Empire. Students will receive educational assistance in cultural heritage, positive identity development, health and nutrition, and financial literacy.
In the near future, he also hopes to convene with other nonprofits to approach funders about increasing support to Black programs, even as Black and Native American kids are the highest risk kids. He feels the issue needs to be part of a larger community conversation.
“We aren’t into the rhetoric, we want to see something tangible. We know that philanthropists in the Inland Empire are not making significant investments in turning around the alarming data for African American children,” he said.
For information on Sigma Beta Xi or “the 100,” email Mr. Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org