WXXI AM News

Black and Latino mentors are needed to support young people in need

22 hours ago

Compeer Rochester
Credit Compeer Rochester

While studies show there are social and economic benefits for young people who have a mentor, only a third of them actually have one. 

Compeer Rochester is hoping to match the dozens of young people in their mentorship program with a positive role model and has partnered with Roc Freedom Riders for an event to highlight the need for local mentors in the Rochester area.

The organization works with young people and adults with mental health issues and matches them with volunteers who provide social and emotional support. They’re hoping the 100 Mentor Bike Ride on Saturday will attract more Black and Latino volunteers.

Volunteer coordinator Sarah Dupre said there are currently about 50 people on their wait list, and the greatest need for matches for teenagers of color.

“We currently only have one African American mentor in our program,” Dupre said. “But a lot of the youth that are waiting for mentors have the preference of having an African American or Latino mentor.”

Dupre said sharing similar cultural backgrounds and experiences is important because it allows mentees to relate andtalk about issues that a white mentor may not understand.

“How to go through those challenging situations where you may unfortunately experience police brutality or discrimination? How do you deal with that?” Dupre asked.

Rashad Smith, co-founder of Roc Freedom Riders, said he’s benefited from having Black male mentors growing up. He said there is potential for anyone to make a difference in someone else’s life.

“You very well may have someone who has spent five, maybe 10 years, in jail and they changed their lives around or are currently changing their lives around,” Smith said. “And those people can serve as mentors because you have young people that are currently walking in their shoes.”

Compeer Mentors make a commitment of four hours a week and are matched based on similar interests with the mentee. 

Dupree said some matches have lasted for decades. People seeking a volunteer or seeking to be matched can find more information here.

The free bike ride starts at 10 a.m. at 259 Monroe Ave.