A new Ypsilanti-based initiative called Brother to Brother is pairing at-risk youth with local businessmen as mentors, and will soon add a partnership offering academic support for youth.
Thanks to a grant from the Kiwanis Foundation of Ann Arbor, the Washtenaw County Youth Center worked with local school administrators to identify young men who could use strong male role models. Marvin Gundy, community outreach coordinator for the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, buses the young men after school to local barbershops, where the young men receive free haircuts while building relationships with local business owners. Mentors include barbershop or salon owners Shawn Green of Finesse 1, Opio Shaah of Stylez Unlimited, and Ryan Griffin of Griff's Unlimited Cutz.
"The mentoring session starts during their haircuts," says Cheyenne Turner, community support specialist at the Washtenaw County Youth Center. "They get practical life lessons and grooming from prominent men in the community, and the mentors engage them in dialogue about various topics."
Turner says the first six weeks of the program, focused on building rapport between mentors and mentees, just ended. The program served six upper elementary students and 18 middle and high school students, largely from Erickson Elementary and Ypsilanti Community Schools' alternative school program, Achieving College and Career Education.
Next, Brother to Brother will partner with local nonprofit Mentor 2 Youth to provide after-school academic support at each participant's school. Turner says Green has applied for grants to fund the program's future.
Depending on future funding, Green says he would like to get laptops for all participants, take them on field trips, and help them establish bank accounts so they can start saving for college and even for their eventual retirement. Turner says the relationships the youth build with local entrepreneurs could potentially lead to jobs for the teens down the road as well.
Community members interested in helping the mentorship program or recommending a youth to participate may reach Turner at (734) 973-4483 or call Finesse Salon at (734) 482-2170.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the interim project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Cheyenne Turner.