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City-Backed Mentoring Program For Young Black Males Kicks Off In Seattle

Rebecca Sullivan Photography

A new program in Seattle to assign black male mentors to black boys is getting underway. The program was set in motion by former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray with $300,000 from the city.

The initiative, called "Our Best: Black Male Achievement Mentoring Campaign," launches Friday.

When Murray announced the program, he said the aim was to address institutional racism and improve outcomes for young black men.

African-American children in Seattle public schools on average score lower than white students on standardized tests and face higher discipline rates.

Don Cameron is executive director of Seattle Cares Mentoring Movement, a nonprofit organization coordinating the program. He said African-American students who responded to a recent survey said they wanted mentors who look like them.

“That’s one of the driving reasons on why we’re really focusing on recruiting black male mentors to work with black boys,” Cameron said.

The program aims to recruit and train 58 mentors to work with boys ages 12-18. He said in most mentoring relationships, the minimum time commitment is four hours per month.

Cameron said mentoring has lasting effects. A recent national report called “The Mentoring Effect” showed that young people at risk for dropping out of school were 55 percent more likely to enroll in college if they had a mentor. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.