National Mentoring Month with Quinton Parrish and Promise Youth
1) What is Promise Youth all about and what is your role in the program?
My name is Quinton Parrish and I’m the Project Coordinator for Promise Youth (PY). PY is an afterschool mentoring “safe space” for teenagers where they can relax, receive academic support, social-emotional learning, financial literacy, community projects, career development and college readiness activities.
2) So, mentoring is a big part of your work with the kids. Describe for us your approach to it.
As the teens gather each day, I let them get settled while I observe everyone’s behavior and how they interact, etc. Then, I suggest games, group activities or even open discussion. Based on their responses, we move forward in our time together. For those who are less engaged, I use one-on-one questions about their interests and needs. Hopefully, this encourages them to share more with others. The goal is to have everyone excited about coming to a place where they can feel cared for, able to share their lives and take part in positive activities. We also want Promise Youth to be a setting where each youth can share any struggles or obstacles they face and allow me to assist them with guidance.
3) Could you share with us a story about someone who’s been impacted by Promise Youth and the mentoring activities?
Sure. One Friday, during a conversation with a student, he talked about an issue he struggled with in school. I took that moment to share with him a personal experience of my own. As a high school student, I was extremely shy until I discovered playing chess. Quickly, this youth expressed an interest in learning about chess as well. The following week, I brought a chess set and we began with the basics. We learned each piece, the role they played and the rules to the game. Through this learning process, he began to get comfortable and more open in dialogue. But after he grasped the fundamentals and all the moves I taught him, there was ”no more mercy.” He was on his own!
And we continued our chess time for many weeks. But although he had captured the chess basics, he still couldn’t win. Then, I shared with him “a secret.” I explained that unlike checkers, chess is very strategic and requires you to think about every move you make and not to just “attack.” Then, as he began to analyze each of his pieces as well as mine, he shared even more about his life.
I will never forget the day he cried, “Checkmate , Mr. Q”!!!! He was shaking in disbelief and excited at the same time. During these many months of simply playing chess, we created a bond that allowed my friend to come out of his shell and express not only school struggles, but also personal obstacles as a teenager. And he also inspired and taught his peers in the program how to play chess. If you happen to be visiting Promise Youth, don’t be surprised if you see the youth gathered around a chess board!
4) Thanks for this powerful story of hope and healing! What are some ways our readers might help support Promise Youth?
My desire is to connect and be a mentor to every youth I encounter but that’s impossible. I invite folks to come to our Promise Youth site, observe all that’s going on, interact with our youth and consider becoming a volunteer or mentor here with us. Come play chess with the kids, join a video game or even learn a new dance! We’d also welcome financial assistance so we can help even more students flourish in this practical and meaningful way.