My Brother’s Keeper, a youth mentoring program initiated by President Obama in 2014, came to Mansfield on Thursday.
US Senator Sherrod Brown, a Mansfield native and Senior High graduate, brought the message, first in a roundtable discussion with community leaders in Senior High’s Dutton Community Room, then to students during an assembly in the auditorium. “The president realized the importance of mentoring in his own life as he was growing up,” Brown said. “It is important to all of us. Some of us have mentors we can count on, others don’t.”
Gary Feagin, a member of the Mansfield City Schools Board of Education, served as emcee for the auditorium program. “Mansfield has accepted the challenge to become a My Brother’s Keeper community,” Feagin told the student assembly. “You are what this organization is all about. We want you to have mentors, someone you can talk to, in or out of school. We have walked down the same streets you have. We are here for you.” Feagin said a community action meeting to advance the mentoring program is planned for Nov. 1 at the Richland Foundation office.
Brown said there are My Brother’s Keeper initiatives in every state but Ohio has the largest number. Mansfield is the smallest Ohio city to join the list. There are no federal funds for the program; it depends on volunteers.
Acknowledging that mentoring work with young people is being done by Big Brothers-Big Sisters and other organizations, Brown said there is a need for a broader approach throughout the community. “I was fortunate. I grew up as a middle class kid in Mansfield who had mentors,” Brown told students. “My mentors outside my home were at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Mansfield City Schools and my neighbors. Everybody needs a mentor, but not everybody has one.”
Among the assembly speakers were Mayor Tim Theaker, Tyger football coach Chioke Bradley and football standout Brian Benson. Bradley, who has served as a mentor to Benson, said Benson is successful on the field and in the classroom because he is coachable. “Brian is a great example of making good decisions. He will be successful in life,” Bradley said. “The decisions you make will determine the rest of your life. I have said before: and uncoachable kid is an unemployed adult.”
Before he introduced Feagin, Superintendent Brian Garverick emphasized to students the caring that comes with mentoring. “Our lives are enriched by the caring of others,” he said. “Caring may come with great fanfare in the form of a multimillion-dollar check to a hospital or charity. But more often caring comes quietly as one-on-one time spent helping someone solve a problem, work through a difficult time or realize their potential.”
“So where do we go from here? As a community we will meet on Nov. 1. But do you want a mentor?” he asked students. “If you do, go to your counselor and sign up. We will put a mentor in touch with you. We want you to succeed.”