New mentorship program begins in Oakland

December 4, 2010 12:32:34 AM PST
There's a new push to help volunteers who want to help mentor African-American young people. A national volunteer initiative kicked off in Oakland where the response was overwhelming, but the work can be tough and this new program will attempt to keep volunteers from getting discouraged.

They celebrated on Friday night, but being a mentor in Oakland isn't always a smooth experience.

"I have one teen that I mentor personally one-on-one," says Deb Kersey.

Kersey says she often finds herself surprised by what her mentee asks her and she sometimes doesn't know what to say.

"Yeah they catch me off guard with their scenarios! I'm like, 'Did you really experience that?'" says Kersey.

The National CARES Mentoring Movement now recognizes that volunteers like Kersey could use some more training before they are paired up with local non-profits and sent out into the streets. So on Friday night, they launched a new training initiative.

"We made the training available for 75 people and 400 plus signed on," says CARES Founder and CEO Susan Taylor.

The training will start this weekend at a retreat in Santa Cruz, but it's not just for current mentors. It is also for new volunteers.

"Mentoring some of these kids is going to be a challenge," says new volunteer Don Dunbar.

Dunbar is a little nervous about being a mentor; it's his first time to try it, but when he saw the reaction in the streets after the verdict in Oscar Grant's death, he knew he had to do something.

"I'm coming from the gym and I come off the freeway and run right into the cars burning. I'm like, 'This looks like Beirut with all the violence.' And I said, 'What is wrong? They have nothing to look up to,'" says Dunbar.

CARES is a national program based in Atlanta, so renowned, actor Louis Gossett Jr. was on hand Friday night to celebrate the new initiative, which will focus a lot of attention on the well being of the volunteers -- so they'll hopefully stay strong when the kids need them the most.


Load Comments