These mentoring programs help Black students succeed academically and in life.
By Megan Reed
Brandon Miller and Nicole Antoinette are helping Black boys and girls reach their full potential while navigating their way through the pitfalls of life. Miller and Antoinette have worked together to create the Better Making of Men Mentoring series for boys and the My Black is Beautiful series for girls.
“Black youth need mentorship,” Miller said. “Everybody needs mentorship. Regardless of race or creed, you need somebody who has had the experiences of life who will come back and instill that in you. While experience is a great teacher, the best learners learn from other people’s experiences.”
These programs have been held at Los Angeles Unified School District schools. Recently, Miller completed a 10-week program at Orville Wright Middle School where he brought in speakers to discuss various topics that impact the boys.
“That allows us to be able to get ahead of some of their mistakes before they make them,” Miller said. “Especially for a young man, each of our mistakes is more magnified that it may trip them up from being successful if they get stopped too early.”
Mental health is a key topic in both programs.
“Black girls run the world, but to run the world you have to have a high self image,” Antoinette said. “They have to be able to manage the world around them. We have the same issues as Black men in a sense. It’s not easy being Black in America, or really anywhere in this world. So it’s important that these girls come into this world understanding who they are. Our program focuses specifically on Black girls, and how they can become successful Black women.”
“Mental health is becoming a major topic in the Black community,” Miller said. “Especially for young men, learning how to control their anger; learning how to express their emotions to people; learning how to be calm within their surroundings. These are things that have typically not been taught to young men. Learning this at such a young age is one of the things that the students said was the most impactful.”
Many Black people have an entrepreneurial spirit, and these programs show the students that they can produce revenue off of their own ideas.
“They liked to learn what it takes to start your own business and make your own money,” Miller said. “We talked about students who had been in other mentoring programs who learned about entrepreneurship and working for themselves, who were not much older than them, and they’re making large amounts of money.”
It’s nearly inevitable that a Black teenager will cross paths with law enforcement officers, so Miller invited an LAPD officer to speak to the group about their rights.
“They got to ask the questions that they just don’t get to ask,” he said. “‘Why do they have to shoot? What happens if they pull me over? What happens if they stop me while I’m walking home?’ They got an hour session to ask whatever they wanted with law enforcement.”
Promoting higher education is extremely important to both Miller and Antoinette, who both attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Miller attended Howard University and Antoinette attended Bethune-Cookman University. Antoinette is the Director of Stepping in the Right Direction, where she has provided Black college tours since 2007. She is also the President of the California HBCU Alliance.
“We have programs on Historically Black Colleges and Universities because our foundation of everything we do is education,” she said. “And specifically Historically Black Colleges and Universities because many of us who run the programs went to HBCUs.”
Many Black students in the greater Los Angeles area are finding that HBCUs are a better fit for them.
“HBCUs are one of the few environments where in college and higher education it’s going to be more of a family like environment,” Miller said. “It’s going to be more of a community. Everybody is going to be working together to support. Naturally here in Los Angeles area, everybody wants to go to UCLA and USC, where we represent two and three percent of the campus. That means that there are a lot of factors playing against you in you being successful in college. HBCUs are a place that can feel like home while you’re trying to get into higher education. Graduating from college is not an easy thing, so having the most support gives you the best chance of being successful. By promoting HBCUs, it gives them the opportunity to start thinking about it early. And a lot of these schools do have money to offer as opposed to some of the UCLAs and USCs. So it makes college a little more viable for them. So they can go there, come out with less debt, and be more successful in school.”
Miller and Antoinette will be expanding their programs to more LAUSD schools this coming year. For more information visit www.hbcusummitseries.com.