Saturday Academy - A Safe Place for Honest Talk
I learned about Life Pieces To Masterpieces from a friend. I wanted to get involved and I was interested in working with African American young men. I am originally from Antigua, Barbados and went to an all boy school that really molded me. I created life long bonds there. I sensed that Life Pieces To Masterpieces was trying to achieve that kind of connection with its apprentices -- to be like a brother. I went to an orientation at LPTM and really appreciated what they were doing. I could identify with some of their issues -- the metamorphosis from pre-teen to teenager to adult -- and thought I could be helpful here.
I got my undergraduate degree at Howard University and I am currently getting my master's in molecular biology, so I have time restrictions. But Saturday Academy sounded like a program that could work for me. And it has. As a graduate student, I can work 14 hours a day. Even though on Saturday Academy days I can’t sleep in or relax, I’m excited to go -- energized and invigorated. I often leave there and do research on what the boys brought to the discussion.
Saturday Academy is very different from other mentoring programs in that it allows for discussions and deep dialogue. Here everyone is learning from each other. We share life experiences. We have topics each week, and put information out there -- statistics, stories, and get feedback. Each of the mentors brings a different perspective because we come from different backgrounds and geographies but we are all African American men. We bring different perspectives.
Our role is not to preach. We encourage dialogue and are hopefully helping boys develop into responsible, disciplined young men. And we hope to develop a lifetime bond between mentor and mentee.
We know Saturday Academy works because of the high attendance. On a Saturday, when these young men could sleep in, play video games or sports, they show up. That says they are appreciative of this safe space where they can openly talk about what’s on their mind. They come to learn.
It's been a year of intangibles. The mentors and students become like a family. During the final program day, my mom came and fell in live after one session. She's really proud of my involvement. It's been a really good year. But I know next year will be even better.
There's so much work to be done.