Mentoring underprivileged young men comes with a unique set of challenges.
Most of the guys that come to my group, Young Men of Valor, have amazing potential, but either lack the motivation to achieve their goals or more commonly have obstacles hindering them. One of my favorite mentees, “Jalen,” is the perfect example. I have mentored him for two years, but initially struggled to get through to him and improve his self confidence. Session after session Earl would sit and not engage with the group. After speaking with his mother and evaluating other factors in his life, including recently losing his father to gun violence and having social anxiety about speaking in front of others, the barriers preventing his participation became apparent to me.
I came up with a solution that allowed him to meet with me individually on the weekends and made myself available by phone at all times. The individual sessions served as means to ease his social anxiety and I also provided him with resources on meditation and stress reduction techniques to help him better manage stress. These adjustments seemed to work as he gradually became more outspoken, has since rejoined the group, and his mother has mentioned to me that she “has her little boy back.” Learning how to motivate individuals like Jalen has been a rewarding task that I believe has prepared me for a career in medicine. I will use my experience as a mentor to motivate my patients to adopt a healthy lifestyle. My experience as a mentor has also shown me the importance of taking a holistic approach to health, evaluating not only one’s physical state, but also the psychosocial barriers to obtaining a healthy mind and body.