A community service that rewards both volunteer and benefactor, mentoring doesn't require any special skills. LJWorld.com found great examples of mentors who were making a difference in the lives of others.
In Room 113 at Free State High School, a group of about 20 boys — all black — waited for their seminar class to begin. They cracked jokes, teased and lounged back in chairs.
The boys didn’t quiet down until Craig Butler — a large man with a booming deep voice who peered over the glasses perched on the tip of his nose — told them why they were there.
“Traditionally, black males score the lowest in achievement tests taken in high school,” Butler said.
The group grew seriously silent.
“One of the premises we have,” Butler continued, “is the scores you get on those tests are not indicative or reflective of your intellectual abilities.”
Over the next nine months, the collection of Free State sophomores, juniors and seniors will meet with Butler and other black men in the community to talk about class, teachers, dating, health and, most importantly, how to navigate life as a young black male in a predominantly white world.
“You exist in a subculture. Are you aware of that?” Butler asked the group.
The program began last year at Lawrence High School and spread this year to Free State and Prairie Park School.
It started with the volunteer time by Butler; former school principal Willie Amison, who now is a project coordinator with Kansas University’s education department; and three Lawrence school district security guards.
“The kids have a place to talk, vent and understand they are not the first ones to be going through (these) life situations. We have done it too,” Butler said. “We’ve lived the same kind of lives they have.”
Butler, who raised three children, worked in the governor’s office and is a longtime youth basketball coach, is now retired but still substitute teaches.
The program isn’t a one-on-one mentoring situation, but it does allow the men to reach out to youths, whom Amison calls “works in progress.”
“All of these guys are smart individuals,” Amison said. “But a lot of time their behavior doesn’t give the right impression about who they are.”