July, 21 2017

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Florida Lawmakers Find Mentors for Struggling Teens

State lawmakers and activists from Jacksonville and South Florida on Friday kicked off a campaign to recruit thousands of black teenagers and adults to mentor disadvantaged and at-risk youth, in hopes of keeping them in school and out of prison.

The goal of the new Florida Cares Initiative is to recruit 100,000 black mentors throughout the state before 2011, and to bring together established mentoring organizations with traditional civil rights and religious groups.

State Rep. Dorothy Bendross Mindingall announced the campaign at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. Organizers hope through mentoring, more young black males and females will be stirred to FMU and other higher education institutions and away from juvenile jails and adult prison systems.

''We will do for ourselves what we keep asking others to do for us,'' said Mindingall, a Miami Democrat.

A just released report by a state task force emphasized the need for more mentors to guide young black men so they will stay in school and out of the criminal justice system.

Members of Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder, a black male mentoring group, unveiled a recruitment website during a press conference at Florida Memorial University.

Organizers say the new campaign launched last month in Jacksonville. Getting started is a simple as clicking a link on a computer screen, said Eddie Staton, national president of MAD DADS. Persons interested in participating will visit a website and enter their ZIP Code into a databank that lists established groups. A group representative will contact them at a later time.

The initiative is a spin-off of a national campaign called Essence Cares, named for the popular black women's magazine. It asks black men and women to take a young person under their wing.

MAD DADS, a national group based in Jacksonville, is a partner with Essence Cares.

Friday's announcement is in sync with the first report released on Tuesday by the Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, a statewide panel.

Among the council's recommendations are increasing the number of intervention programs like the 5000 Role Models of Excellence, founded by state Sen. Frederica Wilson. The South Florida program seeks to prevent boys from dropping out of school and winding up in Florida's prisons.

South Florida's black communities have been struggling to stop an uptick in black-on-black violence -- and improve the economic and educational future of children from impoverished homes where fathers often are absent.

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