Mentorship Matters: Cultivating Confidence and Resilience in Young Scholars

Mentorship Matters: Cultivating Confidence and Resilience in Young Scholars

KIPP Empower's Brotherhood Mentorship Program cohort for the 2023-24 school year

A look inside KIPP Empower’s mentorship program nurturing the social-emotional growth of young boys of color

Imagine walking into school and having an adult ask you, “How are you feeling this morning? What are you excited about learning today?”

At KIPP Empower Academy, a small group of dedicated mentors are working to build genuine connections with 3rd- and 4th-grade boys through the Brotherhood Mentorship Program. 

KIPP Empower's Behavior Interventionist, Michael Stokes, started the program in 2021 to provide young boys mentorship, educational enrichment, community service, and healthy coping mechanisms to support their social-emotional development. Having grown up in Watts’ Nickerson Gardens, Michael brings a personal connection to the program and a deep understanding of the importance of mentorship, especially for young boys of color. 

"There are things kids see while walking or catching a bus to school. I want to show them that you don't have to be or do whatever you see around your neighborhood. Growing up, I saw the gangbanging, the drug selling — I didn't fall into that because of my mentor,” said Michael. 

Brotherhood Mentors Michael Stokes (left), Jesse Sanders (middle), and Stephon Denson (right)

The program has seen a growth in the number of participants over the past three years, from 25 boys in the first year (2021-22) to 27 boys in the second year (2022-23) to 35 boys in the current school year (2023-24).

To participate in the program, boys must be nominated by their teachers. The applications of the nominated students are then reviewed by the mentors, who decide on the acceptance based on their mentor-to-student ratio. In addition to Michael, this year’s mentorship team consists of KIPP Empower Behavioral Interventionist Jesse Sanders, KIPP Empower Community Engagement Associate Alvaro Mendoza, and Michael’s brother Stephon Denson. 

Mentees participating in a cup-stacking team-building activity

The small but mighty team supports their mentees through daily check-ins, homework checks, and weekly group mentoring sessions. Every Wednesday, the boys gather for after-school STEM lessons, team-building activities, outdoor games, and workshops like chivalry, etiquette, and social justice. They also invite special guest speakers, like former NFL player Spencer Paysinger, firefighters, and police officers, to expose the boys to other potential role models from their community and broaden their perspectives. 

Despite the program's many success stories, two students have left a deep impression on the mentors. The first was Timothy, a mentee who transitioned from a shy, silent student to an outspoken and actively engaged student because of the genuine connection he built with his mentor.

Mentors conducting homework check-ins with their mentees

“Mr. Mendoza spent quality time with him and let him know he was there for him and could talk to him. He built trust with Timothy and emphasized that he wouldn’t share anything they talked about, so eventually, he got comfortable talking in front of the mentors and mentees, and that comfort transitioned into the classroom,” said Michael. 

The second student was a mentee experiencing aggressive behavior at home and in the classroom. Once he started the program, Michael worked with him on how to use his words and ask for what he wanted, and after that, everything changed from his academics to his behavior. To this day, the student's mother still checks in with Michael to express her gratitude for the way he helped her son succeed.

Mentors vs. Mentees dodgeball game

To have an even more significant impact, Michael hopes to expand the mentorship program to KIPP Academy of Opportunity, the middle school next door to KIPP Empower, by next year. Plans are also underway to begin a reading group for boys to ensure they are reading at grade level.

The Brotherhood Mentorship Program at KIPP Empower Academy is a powerful example of our commitment to providing enriching, engaging, safe, and nurturing opportunities inside and outside the classroom. Click the button below to learn how your scholar can participate in after-school enrichment opportunities like the Brotherhood Mentorship Program. 

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