Oct 28, 2013
06:05 AM
The Connecticut Story

New Haven Mentors Work to Save Lives

New Haven Mentors Work to Save Lives

Peter Hvizdak

Doug Bethea of New Haven, street outreach worker and director of the Nation Drill Squad and Drum Corps, left, has kept Khalid Fleming of New Haven, 20, out of trouble, according to Fleming, a member of Bethea's drum corps.

Doug Bethea said he believes that if more black men became mentors, the level of gun violence among young black males would decline.

Bethea, 44, said marches and rallies against gun violence in the city just don’t work.

“At most rallies or meetings, the at-risk or troubled youth aren’t present; they’re still on the street looking for our help and guidance,” said Bethea, a street outreach worker and founder of Nation Drill and Drum Squad Corps, a youth mentoring program he started over 26 years ago.

Bethea is one of many city mentors who dedicate their lives working with young people to maximize their potential, by helping build self-worth, confidence and encouraging civic responsibility.

Mentors work with mentees on their strengths and weaknesses, in hopes of focusing them on career paths and success. This includes drilling, sports industry programs, developing interview skills and public speaking courses.

“Becoming a mentor gives our youth someone to talk to, a person they can model after and a way to instill morals and respect for self and others,” Bethea said.

Bethea understands the emotional scars of gun violence. His son, Robert “Scottie” Bennett, was shot to death in the Monterey Place apartment complex in 2006.

Bethea said he stills mourns the death of his son, but blaming others is not the answer for solving a community’s problem.

“We have to admit that the gun violence is a black community problem, but some of us are waiting for others to solve an issue within our community that we have to solve ourselves,” he said. “We need the black churches, mosques and other organizations to step up and stop talking about the problem and make direct contact with the youth in our community.”

The focus of the drill and drum corps is to infuse the three Ds: discipline, dedication and determination.

Sport programs are other ways for youth to release energy.

Michael Jackson of Elite F.O.C.U.S. — short for Foundation to Optimize Careers Unique to Sports — said his program helps take youth off the streets and put them on the path of combining academics and their love for sports as a career option.

“Our program is a vehicle to assist the next generation of leaders successfully navigate through life’s complexities in order to land a career in the sports industry,” said Jackson, 37, a researcher at ESPN.

Jackson said his career road of working at ESPN for the past 13 years came by way of three internships and a part-time position.

“Being able to help youth create a plan with action steps will give them the experience in their desired field and a leg-up on the competition, making them more marketable to future employers,” said Jackson, who launched the nonprofit program more than two years ago.

Jackson argues that the dissipation of morals and values in the family structure are bigger culprits than the poverty, hatred and jealousy that lead to some of the gun violence in the community.

For the full article, visit New Haven Register online.


New Haven Mentors Work to Save Lives

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