Black youth face systemic educational and social barriers that impede their development and achievement. Research shows that mentoring equips youth to tackle these barriers and use their racial background as an asset. Additionally, college students have limited opportunities to engage in long-term service to local communities. The Heads Up Teen Mentoring Program was begun in September 2019 to provide local Black teens access to Black role models committed to helping them achieve their goals. We currently serve five local Black teens and pair them with five Black graduate student mentors. We engage in monthly group and one-on-one sessions with our teens to provide safe spaces for teens to build life skills and decompress. In this essay, we reflect on how our service as mentors has impacted both our teens and ourselves. We focus our reflection on how we are addressing challenges brought on by the COVID-19 and longstanding police brutality pandemics. Specifically, we have found virtual ways to continue group engagement such as virtual game nights, virtual escape rooms, and weekly challenges using group messaging. We also hosted a virtual healing session for our teens addressing systemic racism with a licensed psychologist and added monthly check-in sessions where teens can unload their stresses. We have learned that our teens struggle through these pandemics in ways similar to us, except they lack safe spaces to unpack these challenges. Teens value having a mentor to talk with who is genuinely interested in their growth. We, as mentors, value the opportunity to invest in Black youth and appreciate this service-based opportunity to develop leadership and mentoring skills. Offering virtual programming to address teens' concerns has been a mutually beneficial form of service by creating a safe space for both teens’ and mentors’ development and well-being.
Adeoye, Temitope F.; Burch, Myson; Glenn, Terrell; Scarlett, Rachel; and Shenault, De'Shovon M.
"Mentoring Black Teens during National Pandemics: Mutually Beneficial Service,"
Purdue Journal of Service-Learning and International Engagement: Vol. 8
Available at: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/pjsl/vol8/iss1/15