23 January 2013

In honor of National Mentoring Month, community leaders from across Delaware met today for the fourth annual “Mentoring Works” Summit. By encouraging potential mentors to become involved in young people’s lives, the summit is strengthening a statewide support system to help young people succeed in school, work and life.

“You don’t know who you’re going to touch. You don’t know who you’re going to impact. You don’t know who you’re going to develop unless you reach out to our young people,” Ty Jones, AstraZeneca’s Director External Affairs, told the group.

This week, the Delaware News Journal profiled two such young people – brothers growing up on the East Side of Wilmington. A target area for the Young Health Program, the East Side of Wilmington is a dangerous environment with limited recreational opportunities for youths like Quinton Dorsey and Zaiair Miller Johnson. Quinton and Zaiair are being raised by their grandmother Deborah Cleveland.

Nearly 15 percent of the 26,000 children living on the East Side are between 10 and 19 years old, and most are being cared for by single mothers or grandparents.

From the News Journal story:

One-third of East Side families live below the poverty line, and more than two-thirds are on food stamps. Unemployment has reached 19 percent there, and most of the kids, like Quinton and Zaiair, are on free or reduced lunch at school; some rarely, if ever, eat a healthy meal at home.

And even school can be a challenge. Zaiair is a fifth-grader at Stubbs Elementary School, where he said fights routinely break out. Quinton said he and the rest of his class at Moyer Academy, where he is in the eighth grade, are failing English because they can’t do their work. The teacher spends more time trying to gain control of the chaotic classroom than she does teaching.

Both schools are predominantly low-income and minority.

Shawn Allen is a community activist who serves as a mentor for Quinton and Zaiair. Allen says the community no longer is involved in helping to raise neighborhood children. There’s no longer the sense of village on the East Side that there once was.

The Young Health Program is developing a way to train more mentors, like Allen, throughout the state, including such places as schools and community centers.

For more on Quinton and Zaiair’s story, you can access an app on the News Journal’s site that hosts videos of youths including Quinton and Zaiair, read their stories, view an interactive map of the state of Delaware and take the “40 Assets” test.

Photos from today’s event can be viewed on the Young Health Program’s IM:40 Facebook page.