Black‘n Role pairs young boys and girls with mentors

Contact Staff

What used to be Black Star, a flagship program in our community, has since found a new home with the Big Bcrystalrothers, Big Sisters of Greater Montreal agency. It has also been re-christened, Black‘n Role, and unlike Black Star it matches not only young boys but girls also, who are at risk, with mentors.
One thing that has remained constant with the program is the on-going need to attract enough Black role models to pair with a growing list of young boys and girls who need a role model in their lives.
Crystal Alexander, the coordinator of the Black‘n Role programStephen since 2010, says she’s been seeing growing numbers of Black English speaking students being signaled into the program due to the many social issues that continue to affect many single parents across Montreal.
“Our challenge is to attract enough mentors, especially men, to match with the growing numbers of youth that are coming to us,” she told the Contact recently. “Because without these mentors many of the children are kept on a waiting list and are missing out on what can be special moments in their lives.”
“We try to do follow-ups and stay in touch with their needs but what they reallt need are mentors.”
This year they have paired about 30 children with mentors but dozens more are on the waiting list.
Alexander says about 26 per cent of the children in the organization’s programs are from the Black community, but only eight per cent of their volunteers are Black.
“So as you see, the numbers speak for themselves. That’s why we are encouraging Black men, and women also, who think they can enrich the lives of these young boys and girls to come forward.”
She says the screening process for mentors is stringent and includes an interview, police check, reference check and training, all necessary to ensure that it’s the proper connection to assist in the “child’s personal and social development, and just as important, academically.”
Black’n Role is integrated in both the in-school mentorship and traditional pairing programs of the agency. One allows mentors and students to meet  at school  once a week for 60 minutes from September to June during lunch periods, the other allows for them to meet for two weekends a month either on a Saturday or Sunday.
“It’s amazing how much a mentor can expand the world of a young person,” she says. “Whether they attend a Black Theatre Workshop play or a ball game or just a family gathering it’s always an opportunity for the child to experience something new and interesting.”
The cultural implications in these pairings are also very significant.
She says: “It helps Black (children) to identify and relate to someone who may have encountered similar issues and to offer a positive point-of-reference of someone who is in the community trying to do positive things within (their community).
“The time these children spends with mentors is also an opportunity for parents to relax or spend some time with other children or family members.”
Alexander, who holds a degree in Human Relations from Concordia University and Graduate Diploma in Human Resources Management from McGill University, has been coordinating the program for about five years.
If you or someone you know is interested call  514 842 9715 Ext. 327 or go to calexander@gfgsmtl.qc.ca.