A complex and expensive problem, by the numbers:
Each high school dropout costs the nation between $600,000 and $700,000 throughout the course of their lifetime in costs related to healthcare, welfare, justice system… etc.
A study, "The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth", estimates that there were 6.7 million of these ‘Opportunity Youth’ as of 2012.
MUST has found a solution that is helping the most vulnerable black males graduate high school and lead successful lives.
MUST hires positive Black male college students as Mentors for vulnerable Black male high school students.
MUST works with middle school counselors to identify 8th-grade Black male youth who are in genuine danger of dropping out of high school. At the end of their 8th grade year they are admitted to the MUST mentoring program. The summer between their 8th grade year and freshman year of high school new MUST youth go on group outings with the whole program to get to know other youth and Mentors in the program. At the end of the summer MUST takes all the youth and Mentors away for a weekend to talk about the upcoming year. New MUST youth are then paired with their Mentor as they head into their freshman year.
The MUST mentoring model has three tiers: Coaches, Mentors, and Youth. Three things set MUST apart from other mentoring programs. First, MUST provides Black male near-peer mentors who are in college for the youth to relate to. Second, MUST pays their Mentors. Third, MUST serves both their youth and Mentors equally.
High school graduates receive a Coach to support them for two years. The Coach helps them as they transition to either a career, college and possibly becoming a Mentor for MUST. MUST has found that those first couple of after-high school years are nearly as important as the freshman year of high school.
MUST provides a Coach for college students to help them navigate life, college, and being a Mentor. The college students then mentor the youth all four years of high school. Mentors get the help they need to finish their higher education and youth get a positive male role model who grew up in a similar environment to themselves.
Youth begin to think… “He comes from the same place I do. If he can do it… so can I!”
Successful working men in the community who volunteer to coach the Mentors while they are in college. Coaches and Mentors meet together twice a month during the school year. Coaches help Mentors navigate life, school, career, and being a good Mentor.
Black male college students are paid for four years to mentor high school students who are in genuine danger of dropping out. Mentors get the support they need to persist in college and youth get a positive male role model to look up to.
Over the four years they are together, youth and Mentor talk about the 8 Things that Make a Man. The hole MUST is most often trying to fill is the lack of a positive male role model at home. 8 Things that Make a Man provides a framework for youth and Mentor to talk and learn what it means to be a man.
Youth and Mentor also talk about The Sinister Seven. These are the seven most common things that tend to bring kids down.
High School Youth
Black male high school youth in danger of dropping out of high school. Youth get a family of Black peers and near-peers over a four year period to help them succeed.
Because MUST is serving the youth who need the most help it needs to be a four-year mentoring program. It takes a year just to earn a youth’s trust. By years three and four MUST has a strong voice in the life of the youth. The younger guys watch their older mentors for four years and begin to think… “He comes from the same place I do. If he can do it… so can I!”
A Gates Foundation study, "The Role of Risk", reported that quality mentoring reduces depression, increases acceptance by peers, and improves grades. Long term mentoring helps with attendance, reduces substance abuse, and deviant behavior in school.**
There are also financial benefits to mentorship. Another study, "The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth", shows that there are more than 6 million high school dropouts and underemployed youth (age 16-24) in America and each one costs society more than $600,000 over the course of their lifetime. And they pass the same patterns on to their children, continuing the cycle.