COLUMBIA, SC — Jimmie A. Wright believes in the power of positive male role models.
When Wright’s father was killed in Vietnam, his mother sought responsible father figures for her then 7-year-old son.
“My mother knew that I needed help in growing up,” Wright said. “She knew I needed leadership from someone that may have the answer to my issues.”
Many years and several mentors later, he is still affirming those beliefs.
As the in-school suspension coordinator and crisis prevention intervention instructor at C.A. Johnson High School, Wright knows the value positive behavior intervention and support can have on young males. But an absence of sufficient role models — particularly in the black community — has him and other community leaders concerned that many black youth lack the type guidance he long enjoyed.
Saturday, area men are encouraged to take part in the Become a Mentor event at C.A. Johnson. The free forum will address the positive impact of mentorship on young black men and is hoped to increase the number of black male mentors in Columbia.
The Become a Mentor forum is sponsored by Concerned Black Men CARES Columbia and the Steve Harvey Mentoring Campaign. It is the latest stop for the popular entertainer’s mentoring drive that also has visited Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Wright is the current president of CBM CARES Columbia. The group points to statistics showing that more than 60 percent of black children are growing up in father-absent households while an alarmingly high number are dropping out of high school, increasing their risk of becoming incarcerated and trapped in a cycle of unemployment and low-wage jobs.
“With all of the obstacles they face as young men, someone has to be able to give them a road map to success,” Wright said.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin will open Saturday’s forum, which will address such things as peer pressure, negative pride, violence and other issues.
“The biggest hope that we would like to walk away with after this weekend will be for men to come together and reach out to young men to help them prepare for manhood,” Wright said.
Other area organizations taking part this weekend include 100 Black Men, Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Board of Directors (a mentoring group), C.A. Johnson High School, Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models), Harmony, Junior Buffalo Soldiers, National CARES Mentoring Movement, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., WWDM Radio and the Young Democrats of South Carolina.
“We need more men to step up to the plate and mentor our boys,” Wright said. “Looking back, this is where mentoring paid off for me. It is my desire and passion to give what I was given — a chance.”
If you go
Saturday’s “Become a Mentor” forum will run from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at C.A. Johnson High School, 2219 Barhamville Road. Admission is free and registration is not required.