Mentoring our youth subject of Morehouse town hall meeting

The day Susan Taylor learned that 80 percent of African-American fourth graders were reading below grade level was the day the former editor-in-chief began planning her exit from Essence magazine.

Some five years later, in 2005 , Taylor had an answer: Mentoring and more specifically, the National CARES Mentoring Movement, the organization she founded in 2006 in response to the crisis.  Today, CARES has some 60 chapter affiliates across the country, including here in Atlanta.

“The time, energy and support we dedicate today to the nation’s struggling youngsters will dictate the tomorrows we create for all of our children, our communities and country,” she said.

It’s a message Taylor has been touting for years now and will bring to Atlanta March 15, when she and comedian, radio talk show host and author Steve Harvey lead a  town hall discussion at Morehouse College on educating black youth.

The event, sponsored by General Mills as part of its “Box Tops for Education” program, is slated to begin at 7 p.m. in the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel. It is free with advance registration at Special guest will include, among others, Spelman College President Beverly Tatum and actress Tisha Campbell-Martin.

The goal is to start a conversation about the importance of a strong primary education in the lives of children and the impact mentoring can have on both children and their education.

With a fast-growing number of children falling below the poverty line, Taylor said America has no choice but to develop innovative strategies to secure their future.

“This is more than our challenge,” Taylor said. “It is more than our mission. It is our mandate.”

Prior to her visit, we asked Taylor four questions:

Q. What is the goal of the movement?

A. The goals of National CARES Mentoring are to increase high school graduation rates among African-American students, end the violence in Black communities and the over-incarceration of our young. To increase and ensure that our young are prepared to succeed in college, the 21st century workforce and become entrepreneurs.

Q. And the town hall meeting scheduled on March 15 in Atlanta?

A: General Mills’ Box Tops for Education is rallying the community to collectively make a difference in our children’s lives by driving greater academic success. Join me and host Steve Harvey at the Box Tops for

Q. Why did you see mentoring as a way to change the educational outcomes for African-American children?

A. Mentoring works miracles in the lives of young people, all of whom need able and stable adults in their lives in order to succeed. Many children are in low performing schools, and need academic and social support that is not available in their classrooms and communities. Mentors who serve as homework helpers, tutors or role models can change the destinies of our young.

Q. What do you hope will happen after the meeting on March 15?

A: We are hoping that those in attendance will put the education of children at the top of their agenda and will donate their time, energy, and resources; that hardworking teachers and schools will have some of the resources they need to educate children at the top tier; that the audience will be inspired to make a difference in young lives and tap into the resources being presented at the Box Tops for Education Town Hall meeting in Atlanta.