Mentorship effort meets reality TV

Multilevel teams of students, adults to meet weekly, as cameras roll


News from around the Baltimore region

August 02, 2005|By William Wan | William Wan,SUN STAFF

Steven T. Mitchell, For children in Baltimore, the path to adulthood is fraught with danger and drama. Last night, educators, city officials and volunteers met to map out a new way to fend off the danger and capture the drama of adolescence - a combination of mentorship and reality TV.

The program, organized by anti-violence group Take Back the City, introduces a spin on mentorship. Middle school pupils will be mentored by high school students, who will be mentored by college students, who will be mentored by adults.

Grouped into teams of four (one from each stage of education), students would have the chance to be both mentors and mentees in weekly meetings.

And, rolling in the background, cameras will be capturing it all for a reality TV pilot show.

Steven T. Mitchell, founder of Take Back the City, dreamed up the chain-mentorship idea while working as a prosecutor for the juvenile division of the Baltimore state's attorney's office.

"A lot of times when we have a little kid locked up with the bigger kids, the bigger kids won't like seeing the little kid in there with them," Mitchell said. "Not only do the big kids warn the younger kids about the mistakes they made in life, but the big kids also get a sense of responsibility, too. They think about the example they've been setting."

Much of the program is being developed, and the group needs funding to the tune of $54,000 from city officials and area foundations. But organizers hope to begin the program this fall with about 20 teams.

Three schools have signed on for the first year of the program: Coppin State University, Walbrook Liberal Arts Academy high school and Harlem Park Middle School.

Prospective mentors and mentees will be interviewed at the schools in the fall - with the cameras rolling.

After the first year, organizers hope to shop around the resulting TV pilot to local channels, cable outlets and the BET cable channel.

"With a reality TV show, we'll be able to reach even more kids through TV than the 20 teams involved," Mitchell said. "That's the beauty of it."

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