Concerned Black Men board member James Newton said that the non-profit youth mentoring organization has a strong reason when it adopts a school. The West Oak Lane based group has been bringing in volunteers to work with the middle school boys at the David Birney Elementary School in Logan this past school year. The reason is because they heard it was a “turnaround” school and wanted to help turn it around.
Newton admitted it seemed to be daunting task as the experienced volunteers, some of whom are retired police officers, entered the school at 900 W. Lindley Ave. The school already had a reputation for being “tough school.” Though the group was founded turning around gang members, this was a unique challenge for CBM.
“The reason we wanted to be there is because we were impressed by the principal Dr. Bernard James,” said Newton. “Some schools have problems but don’t want anyone in there. They are afraid that you will see their problems and that will let them look bad.
“I think a stronger approach is to admit you have problems. Then you can ask for help. CBM is one group that is willing to help. We have been working with middle school boys for many years with our chess program, our mentoring program and other programs. We give out scholarships to high school students, but we’ve even given some middle school students college scholarships,” Newton said.
Newton said he hoped that CBM could be of service to the Birney School for years to come. CBM has adopted other Philadelphia School District middle schools over the years. For more information about CBM call 215-276-2260 or visit their website at www.cbmnational.org.
Twenty-four African-American students from Northwest Philadelphia and surrounding areas are closer to their dream of attaining a college degree thanks to tuition and book scholarships given to them by the non-profit West Oak Lane-based Concerned Black Men.
The awardees received their prizes at CBM’s Annual Youth Recognition Banquet Friday at the Flourtown Country Club.
Sean V. Brown, a student at the Peddie School in Hightsown, N.J., was named the 2012 CBM Youth of the Year. Brown has been accepted to study biology as a pre-med undergraduate student at Johns Hopkins University this fall. In addition to having a 3.4 GPA, Brown excelled at both varsity football and basketball as well as the junior varsity baseball team at his school.
“I just thank God for giving me the opportunity to be here,” Brown said in his acceptance speech. “I would like to thank my parents because without them I would not be going to Johns Hopkins or getting any of the awards I’ve received. I thank CBM for supporting me and I would like to congratulate all the other students who earned scholarships tonight.”
This year’s other scholarship recipients included Springside students Autumn Temple and Azurai Thompson, Chestnut Hill Academy senior Terence A. Jones, Cheltenham High School senior Je’von Tyrone-Cary White, and Roxborough High School senior Laurence Caulk.
Also, Parkway High School junior Shanice Hill, Northeast High School student Tiaira Wright, and Frankford High School senior Tyler Greene received awards. Additionally, Murell Dobbins High School seniors Quanika English Fowler, Chante Smith, Melvin Ellis and Shyheim Fuller were honorees.
Furthermore, Constitution High School senior Charnique Johnson, Bodine High student Christian Copeland, West Catholic High School athlete David Morton, By God’s Word Christian Academy scholar Donel J. Brown, and World Communications Charter School senior Jasmine Coleman received scholarships.
Julia Masterman High School aspiring journalist Jazzlin Sturgis, and Girard Academic Music student Manuel Jimenez were honored by CBM. Finally, Academy of Notre Dame de Namur junior Janae Grier, Winslow Township (N.J.) High School junior Jayme Braithwaite, Western School of Technology senior Julian Patton, and Cherokee High School (N.J.) karate expert Junice Ward, also received scholarships or book awards as well.
The scholarship awards were sponsored by Dr. Jerry Murphy, Relish Restaurant in West Oak Lane, and many others. During the May 18 event Joseph E. Huggins was officially inducted as a new member of CBM.
“You must work hard at what comes easy to you,” said keynote speaker Omar Barlow. He is the co-founder and academic officer of Barlow Enterprises. Barlow recommended the scholars think big, live their lives on purpose, and excel.
Also on the program were master of ceremonies E. Steven Collins and CBM president Hank Wilson. In addition, Brian Michael Evans of West Oak Lane provided the evening’s music.
CBM Cares — the mentoring initiative of the nonprofit Concerned Black Men National Organization — is ramping up its mentor recruitment efforts both locally and nationally, and will work in conjunction with Concerned Black Men Philadelphia to reach its quota here.
Concerned Black Men, founded in 1975 when several Philadelphia police officers sponsored social events for kids at risk to gang violence, is dedicated to filling the void of positive Black male role models in many communities by providing mentors and programs that affirm the care and discipline that all youth need, while providing opportunities for academic and career enrichment. The philosophy of men offering themselves as positive role models to children has remained CBM’s mission for more than 30 years.
There are currently five chapters enrolled in CBM Cares: Prince Georges County, Maryland; Washington D.C.; Columbia, South Carolina; Richmond, Virginia and Philadelphia.
“The statistics surrounding African-American male youth point to a severe crisis that can no longer be ignored,” said Volunteer and Mentoring Services Director Jeannette Simon, via a statement released by the national office. “More than 60 percent of African-American youth are growing up in fatherless households. The critical importance of African-American male role models cementing a presence in the lives of African-American youth cannot be understated. In Philadelphia, the Concerned Black Men National Mentoring Initiative, CBM Cares Philadelphia, is in constant demand of responsible and resilient African-American men to provide guidance, support and encouragement to our youth as mentors.”
CBM Philadelphia offers tours of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, supports an annual African-American youth recognition and award program, is currently enrolled in the adopt-a-school program, and also offers an after school and evening computer programs.
All this on top of the comprehensive “Bringing the Black Boy to Manhood” program, which formed a partnership with African-American firefighters, the Pennsylvania Probation and Parole Board, the Philadelphia Police Department, Prince Hall Masonic Lodges and local businessmen and otherwise interested African-American males that allow the youth to mingle with them and gain insight into the coming of age process.
Locally, less than a dozen men are active mentors with CBM, and program manager Eugene Pough hopes to at least triple that number through this mentorship drive.
“The official number to meet the quota is 35, but personally, I would like to have 50 men sign up to be mentors,” Pough said. “And the program has been very successful. I took over in July, but the previous program director signed up more than 85 youth to the program.”
Interested men can visit either www.cbmcares.org or www.cmbnational.org to learn how to sign up, and to learn what being a mentor entails. Men can also call 215-276-2260 to sign up.
While being a mentor can seem like a daunting task filled with over-the-top responsibilities, Pough said the requirements are quite minimal, and what a mentor gets out of the program makes it even more worthwhile.
“It would mean one hour per week, per school, and then there’s four hours on one Saturday every month,” Pough explained. “But overall, the self-gratification and knowing you are affecting the lives of young African-American and Latino males should be enough [to convince potential mentors].
“With the crime and everything else going on, and with violence among African-American and Latino males are facing, and if someone is interested in giving their time to stop this from happening, it’s a must they become a mentor.”