A brand-new Cincinnati grassroots nonprofit has launched a free mentorship program to teach and empower young people — specifically, those growing up without the presence of fathers —with the tools they need to succeed and reach their full potential.
According to the National Center for Fathering, more than 20 million children live in a home without the physical presence of a father, and millions more have dads who are physically present, but emotionally absent. Research shows when a child is raised in a father-absent home, the child is at a greater risk of poverty or become a teen parent and more likely to develop behavioral problems.
Michael Leonard, founder and executive director of MENtors, says the major benefit is the relationships that develop through the activities with the end goal of helping youth build tools and skills, such as goal setting, dream building, self-motivation, self-leadership, and priority management — all pillars of success and achievement. MENtors is designed to tackle these issues.
“We recognize the fact that fatherless homes are a big problem in our community,” Leonard says. “We began to launch our mentoring program late last year, but right when we were getting the ball rolling, we were struck with COVID-19 and had to put our efforts on hold and re-work our service delivery model. We have launched a new effort to re-engage with the community and the youth that they serve. Just recently, we partnered with Chase Elementary to hold a school supply drive where we were able to provide the school’s entire third grade with school supplies.”
The program was developed based on the visible need within the community to embrace the youth and provide them with a structural support system to boost their morale and ensure their success.
Many people have stepped up to become mentors, and they come from a variety of backgrounds; all will the same hope to help MENtors provide comprehensive mentorship that includes webinars and cultural events to actively service the youth, in addition to bringing a broader awareness of life and culture.
“Without fathers in the home, too many young people lack a network of relationships that can help them navigate life,” Leonard says. “We believe that an investment in our youth in this way lays groundwork to transform young people’s lives.”
In addition, MENtors plans to increase the quantity of mentoring connections for youth across the Greater Cincinnati area — including Northern Kentucky — through the creation of tools and support systems that are tailored to address the challenges faced by youth today, including COVID-19 and navigating social justice efforts, like the Black Lives Matters Movement.