Mentorship program that empowers Black youth seeks participants
As the Black Student Mentorship Program heads into its second year of forming positive relationships between Black youth in Lake Oswego, it is seeking mentors and mentees to join.
The program was created in 2020 by Lake Oswego students Julia Bohannon and Jayden Hill. The students said the program is designed to guide and support Black elementary students by pairing them with mentoring Black high school students who provide positive role modeling.
The coordinators are looking for mentors in ninth to twelfth grade, and mentees in kindergarten to sixth grade. If a student is in seventh or eighth grade, they can join as a "junior mentor," where they will be paired with another mentor and observe the group meetings.
This year the mentorship program will meet several times throughout each month in either group sessions or one-on-one meetings between mentors and their mentees.
Last year, in group meetings, mentors and mentees were joined by nonprofit groups like Brown Girl Rise. They also helped make care packages for Black, Indigenous and people of color families. Activities included movie nights where they screened films related to identity.
This year's theme has yet to be decided (last year it was goal setting) but it will focus on how students can empower themselves and their community through peer interaction. Hill said this program is designed to help students who "have been in their shoes."
"(The program) is something that we could have benefited from when we were younger," Hill said.
Originally from a diverse community in California, Bohannon said she experienced a shock to the system when moving to Lake Oswego.
"It was such a big culture shock seeing so many people that didn't look like me, I felt really lost," Bohannon said. "I didn't know what to do and it was really hard going from fifth grade … in trying to navigate, 'where do I fit in?'"
She referenced how Lake Oswego has historically been racist, and for students of color it may be hard to navigate everything without any support.
"This program, it's really a way to just connect with the younger students to be like, 'hey, you're not alone and if you need advice, come to me. I've gone through this'.... because I don't want you to have to go through what I went through," she said.
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