It has been said that a mentor empowers a person to imagine a possible future and believe that it can be achieved. Nothing could be truer for Zion Townsend, 14, who will be attending high school next year.
“In all honesty, this has been one of the best experiences I’ve had, and I haven’t even been here 24 hours yet,” said Townsend, who aspires to play professional basketball after matriculating to either Howard University, Clark University or North Carolina A&T State University.
“These are all young Black men who are being mentored by Black men. We are being taught the same thing, but we are not the same way. So, I feel like we come here knowing eight times eight equals sixty-four.
“But you only knew one way to figure that out. By the time you leave, you know three different ways how to figure that out,” added Townsend, who said he would pledge Kappa Alpha Psi when he’s in college.
Townsend was one of about 100 students attending the San Fernando Santa Clarita Alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.’s Inaugural Western Province Kappa League Conference on the campus of California State University Los Angeles recently. The three-day leadership training conference brought together Latinx and African American young men enrolled in the Kappa League mentor program chapters from California. Most of the students were high-school age or recent graduates.
It has been heavily documented that many young male students of color face a myriad of challenges such as over-referral for school disciplinary action, misplaced in special education or unfairly sentenced as adults in the criminal justice system.
Shannon Faulk, the Western Province Guide Right chair, said that connecting Black male youth with mentors who have shared life experiences and engaging Black men as mentors has massive potential to change their life trajectory.
“We’re trying to inspire them to believe they can achieve whatever they want to do. So, regardless of the challenges they may have,” said Faulk, “whether they are a part of a single-family home, they can do whatever they aspire to do, and we’re here to support that.”
The students, or Kappa Leaguers, have an extended weekend that gives them a taste of the college experience, from sleeping in the dorms to eating at the campus food court as well as attending workshops designed to prepare them to be successful in college and life.
The most rewarding part is to watch the young men interact and form new relationships and to develop new relationships with other young men from other parts of California and other states,” said Anthony Lee, the conference event chair. “They realize that they have a lot more in common than they thought,” added Lee.
The conference had an extensive roster of seminars that offered a range of areas including academics, careers, social-emotional wellbeing, and interactions with law enforcement, budgeting, and financial literacy.