By: Jackie Hardy, NDG Contributing Writer
“It takes a village to raise a child,” is an African proverb South Oak Cliff (SOC) High School, a public school of Dallas ISD, knows and understands far too well.
Black Men Care (BMC), a mentoring program designed for high school students, certainly has met the qualifications of becoming that “village” for South Oak Cliff High School. SOC is home to approximately 1,319 students comprising a 100 percent minority student body, with African Americans serving as the largest minority group on its campus.
Black Men Care, a diverse group of predominately African American business leaders, owners and citizens with a passion to mentor youth, showed up in great numbers to welcome the students of SOC as they kicked off the new school year. The students were greeted with high fives and applause as they entered the campus, a Meet and Greet initiative started by BMC to show the students of SOC that they are important and that they matter.
“It went very well and it was well attended. It was people there from all walks of life, it was a beautiful thing. I want these kids to recognize that we do care and that they have positive role models to look up to,” commented C. Victor Lander, founder of Black Men Cares and Municipal Judge for City of Dallas Municipal Court, about the event.
“There were politicians, lawyers, educators, judges there; and to see those people lined up as there were over 60 people in attendance and for all of them to be there to let students see an image of success was powerful.” states Derrick Battie, SOC educator and School Community Liaison.
The faculty and staff at South Oak Cliff High School have seen first-hand the positive impact BMC’s presence had on its students.
“It is important for students to see and touch what success looks like and to see successful individuals who look like them and who have walked their same path,” shares Dr. W.F. Johnson, South Oak Cliff High School Principal.
“When you came in the building you felt the warmth, the love and the encouragement from the people that were participating. It was a great, great way to start the school and the kids enjoyed it,” advises South Oak Cliff PTO President and parent, Pastor Mattie Johnson.
According to a 2002 study conducted by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, which examined the relationships between role model characteristics, psychosocial functioning and health-risk behaviors, found 56 percent of adolescences identified better with role models and those who identified with role models they knew on a personal basis showed higher levels of self-esteem and stronger academics.
“Children need your presence, not your presents,” states Battie regarding the value and importance of having mentorship programs like Black Men Care.
As an educator, Battie understands how powerful the image that Black Men Care provides and how that image of successful African American men can serve as a vital tool in inspiring and motivating students to believe they can also achieve that same type of success; especially those students South of Interstate 35 who may not see those images displayed on a regular basis.
“We want them to see us in our suits and let them know you can make it and all you have to do is put forth the effort,” he adds.
The concept behind BMC to provide mentoring, coaching, and support to students within Dallas ISD is gaining a lot of traction within the Metroplex and it is exactly what Judge Lander is hoping will continue to happen as more schools become aware of the program and its mission.
One core value each volunteer shares among those affiliated with BMC is their desire to give back to the community. The hope is that by giving back they can help eradicate some of the societal ills perplexing many minority children, young males respectively; living in vulnerable communities where they are at a greater risk of choosing a life of crime.
BMC is committed to being a catalyst for change through its mentoring program with the desired outcome of providing students with positive role models to emulate throughout their high school tenure.
“Black Men Care has been vital to the students, especially the male students because a lot of those kids that are male do not have a male presence in their life, so to see those men (BMC) come in with leadership ability and some of them come from the same situation as some of the male students; and to see the outcome these men (BMC) have created for themselves is encouraging to them.” explains Johnson on the unique way Black Men Care is able to appeal to the male students of SOC.
Black Men Care wants to implement this program to other high schools within Dallas ISD and possible in the future bring the program to middle and elementary schools within Dallas. With over 35 high schools in Dallas ISD, BMC has the potential to reach and make a difference in the lives of thousands of high school students.
“My intent is to have representatives where they can go visit and try to go to every high school on a monthly basis in Dallas, as that is my short-term goal,” explains Lander with respect to his vision of extending the program to more high schools for this current school year.
Lander hopes to be able to send between three to five BMC volunteers to the various high schools to broaden their presence and impact throughout the District. His vision is to provide one-on-one mentoring to providing classroom presentations and school assemblies; along with providing consultation for students on various topics ranging in career opportunities, life skills, interpersonal/social skills in addition to other topics that will help students achieve success.
Those interested in learning more about upcoming volunteer opportunities and/or provide mentoring in the areas of teaching students how to dress for success as well as donate business attire for students who need clothing for interviews can visit as well as like the Black Men Care Facebook page and post a comment on how you would like to assist or volunteer.