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Mentoring group helps black teens in several courses

Jared Canino used to wonder whether it was worth getting up early on Saturday mornings to attend mentoring sessions at South Suburban College in South Holland.

He acknowledged that he probably would have rathered stayed in bed. Now, his views have changed.

For the last year, the freshman at Hillcrest High School in Country Club Hills has watched his grades improve after being a part of the 100 Black Men of Chicago mentoring program.

His grades jumped from C’s to a B-plus average.

Canino, 15, is one of 150 African-American teen boys being mentored by 100 Black Men of Chicago.

The group takes a rather unconventional approach when it comes to mentoring. Rather than connecting mentors to work with students one-on-one, the organization allows students to work with a network of mentors who specialize in a variety of skills and academic subjects.

Since 1995, the group has helped participants with history, natural science and math, as well as college preparatory courses.

Jourdan Sorrell, Midwest district representative of 100 Black Men of America, said having several mentors available gives students a diverse range of support and protects them from working with a mentor who is not compatible.

“The mentoring model we work with is an evidence-based model that works with volunteers from the African-American community who are well-equipped to face the unique challenges African-American youth deal with,” said Sorrell, who added that often black youth are absent positive black male role models.

Canino says the mentoring sessions have been good for him.

“Even if I’m having a bad day, when I know I am coming in on Saturday for the mentoring session I just lighten up,” Canino said.

Jarad Higgins, 16, has been in the program for four to five months but said he feels more confident and has been more outspoken in school.

He said he enjoys being exposed to a network of male role models.

“A lot of black men have to deal with growing up without a father figure, a black male role model to look up to throughout one of the most important parts of their lives,” said Higgins, a sophomore at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Flossmoor. “But having someone in the community who is willing to become that figure is more than just inspiring.”

For information about 100 Black Men of Chicago, call 312-372-1262.

This is one in a series of articles being produced through a partnership between the Chicago Sun-Times and the Illinois Mentoring Partnership.

Yoona Ha, the author of the story, is a Northwestern University student.