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rowing up, Michael Steinback remembers his father being the neighborhood baseball coach for kids. "He was just one of those dads in the neighborhood who was always out with the kids," he recalls.
As an adult, Steinback followed those footsteps, working with kids through his life and setting aside time to manage Little League baseball. As a skier and member of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, Steinback watched his kids grow up in the program-where he and other parents worked with children, teaching them not only about the sport but also about character.
With a passion for helping youth, Steinback moved from California to take the role of executive director at Detroit CARES Mentoring Movement, an affiliate of the National CARES Mentoring Movement started in 2005 by Susan L. Taylor, the organization's CEO and editor-in-chief emerita of Essence Magazine. As with the CARES "circles" across the country, Detroit CARES is devoted to recruiting Black mentors in the community and connecting them with organizations looking for mentors for Black youth.
"There are a lot of mentoring organizations out there that struggle with attracting Black mentors," Steinback explains, noting the wide gap between the number of Black children waiting for mentors and the number of available Black mentors.
According to NCMM, White women and men were the first responders to the call for mentors. "We discovered that it was largely because structures did not exist to bring African-Americans squarely into the work," the organization explains. With CARES Mentor-Recruitment Circles across the country, the group is able to connect those Black adults willing to mentor to other organizations with a need. Mentors and prospective mentors also participate in a program created by a "brain trust" of scholars, faith leaders, entrepreneurs and more called "A New Way Forward," NCMM notes. "It's what we've framed our work around," Steinback explains. Groups discuss a series of subjects outlined in the manual A New Way Forward: Healing What's Hurting Black America, such as heritage, spirituality, wellness and community-among others. "It is really a manual for people to understand who they are and how they can be a part of this movement," Steinback says.
Because there is such a large number of mentees on waiting lists, Steinback says the organization is working to create groups of mentors, thus reaching more children.
Here in Detroit, over the last year, Steinback says it has been a "planning year," working on creating a program for Detroit specifically.
Currently, Detroit CARES, with the help of a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, has been working with Pathways Academy Charter School, a Detroit Public Schools-authorized charter for teen parents.
In 2015, he notes, "We're going to roll out a curriculum and in a big way engage with many more of the organizations that we're recruiting for."
Steinback says kids will find somebody to mentor them in life, but unfortunately, if a positive mentor is unavailable to a child, they may end up following negative influences instead.
"We want a lot of positive choices to overshadow the negative choices that they have," he says.
Making an impact with mentoring
Mentoring has a big impact on the trajectory of a child's life. A study conducted by The California Mentor Foundation in 1999 found that majority of kids involved in mentoring programs stayed in school, didn't do drugs, had no involvement in gang activity and did not become pregnant as teens.
And what about the mentors themselves? "A mentor gets many benefits from the interactions," Steinback explains.
"You have to know inside you've reached that child on some level that if you were not there, the child would not have gained that benefit."
While the benefits "don't flash like a neon sign" all the time or right away, he notes, "The feeling of giving and sharing one's self and making a real difference is immeasurable."
If you're interested in mentoring youth or would like to contribute to the organization in some way,