Growing up in Baltimore, Alphonso Mayo’s experience was all too common. His mother was a drug addict who left him with his grandparents when he was six months old. His father was incarcerated throughout his life. And he relied on football to escape from his reality.
But that didn’t stop him. When Mayo was 21, he promised his dying grandmother that he would get an education and help others. And he did. Though he didn’t learn to read and write until ninth grade, he graduated from Northwestern High School in Baltimore. Eventually, he went on to Stevenson University, where he graduated with a B.S. in Human Services in 2014 and then got a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Johns Hopkins University in 2018.
Mayo saw a lot of kids in Baltimore experiencing trauma and poverty, just as he had growing up. He saw the effects it had on these kids and he wanted to help, so he started Mentoring Mentors in 2014. The goal of Mentoring Mentors is to develop a pipeline of positive African-American role models for inner-city youth. Having positive role models and a support system that encourages African-American youth to pursue opportunities to succeed, engage in their communities, and instills in them a desire to mentor others breaks negative patterns and provides a more hopeful and encouraging outlook for the kids and the community as a whole, says Mayo.
Mentoring Mentors uses a “Near-to-Peer” model. Mentoring is intergenerational, beginning with kids in middle school (legacy builders) who are paired with high school students (mentor-apprentices), who are paired and connected with young adults who have completed high school and ideally college (mentors). With this approach, Mentoring Mentors aims to create a pipeline of African-American mentors helping African-American youth in Baltimore City.