MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There's been a lot of conversation about violence in the Memphis community but what about solutions?
Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray appealed to the community in a letter recently, asking people to step up and do more to get involved.
One option he offered was asking male role models to sign up for the district's Band of Brothers mentorship program. It was an initiative launched ahead of the 2019-20 school year before being interrupted by the pandemic.
The mentorship program continued during the pandemic virtually and now is returning to in-person meetings.
Dr. Michael Lowe, SCS Director of Equity and Access, says the program is a solution and a need. The pandemic, he said, brought a greater need for a sense of belonging.
“Regardless of what is going on, schools are a microcosm of the community, and right now our community, not only in the school but outside, they’re calling for more so we’re asking everybody," he said. "We can’t do this work alone."
Through the program, male mentees that are vetted by the district, meet with 5th to 8th-grade students once a month during the school day while routinely checking in with them.
Dr. Lowe said the district currently has 25-30 male mentor volunteers but the need is much higher.
“This critical mentoring space is the time to talk about character building, integrity, love for women, love for and respect for yourself, love for your classmates, and having that sense of belonging," Dr. Lowe said.
The program is currently in four schools, Dr. Lowe said. But the hope is to expand it in more as it grows.
The district measures the need by zip code. Dr. Lowe said one focal point is the zip code of 38126 in South City.
“We’re noticing that between fifth and eighth grade, all of a sudden our suspension, some of our discipline rates, are going up," he said. "So we’re trying to intervene before they get to high school before they start working and get into full-time sports. These grades are critical years.”
To apply to be a mentor and help shape a young man's life--click here.
A mentor training session will be held prior to Thanksgiving break.