Website Connects Black Youth to Mentors

Creative approach to mentoring is helping minority kids reach higher in their lives

Reginald Dunlop is just trying to make things easier for the next generation.

He decided in his youth that he wanted to be a pilot, but said it was tough to find a role model who looked like he did.

"I didn't have personal connections," said Dunlop.

But he didn't let the lack of an African-American mentor deter him from his dream. He worked hard, and for two decades worked as an airline pilot. He was eventually promoted to captain.

In order to keep others from experiencing the same hurdles that he did, Dunlop created It's a website that connects young people with those in their chosen fields.

"When you take on a mentoring role, you are able to cut the corners for somebody," explained Dunlop.

Key features of the site are the directory of scholarships, the lists of jobs and internships, the mentor connect community and the career profiles, which offer job descriptions for more than 300 careers.

The social media aspect of the site allows students from anywhere in the country to be connected to a mentor.

For example, student Ashley Sanders, who lives in Westchester, Ill., used the site to connect with marine biologist Danni Washington, who lives in Miami, Fla.

Merchant marine boat Capt. David Linnea and Southwest Airlines pilot Lester Harris have been online mentors since the site launched roughly two years ago.

"I've actually worked with children from Atlanta and told them things they need to do to go into the Merchant marines operations," said Linnear.

While most of the site is free, the online tutoring section costs $70 per month, but it's not your average face-to-face help session.

Sanders used to raise her geometry grade from a "C" to an "A," and that's partly because tutors were available to her 24 hours per day.

"You don't have to wait. You just log right in, and however long you want to be on there, [it's] perfect," said Sanders.

Dunlop wants to keep growing the site.

"In the future we want more corporations to participate through mentoring through sponsorships so we can spread the message and spread the work that we're doing on a broader scale," he said.

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