HARLEM — Rochelle Hill and Joe Rogers Jr. are looking for a few good mentors.
In an effort to connect young people who need to be mentored with adults willing to provide guidance, Hill's and Roger's respective organizations, Harlem CARES Mentoring Movement and Total Equity Now, are sponsoring the inaugural Harlem Mentoring Fair Aug. 13 at the Minisink Townhouse.
"There are thousands of young people who need support and guidance. In Harlem, there are thousands of adults who should step up and play that role," said Rogers, founder of Total Equity Now, which focuses on equity in education.
The fair hopes to eliminate the disconnect between adults who might be interested in mentoring young people and the many organizations that facilitate such relationships by putting them together in the same room.
More than 3 million children are being mentored in the United States today but another 15 million are waiting to be mentored. Many grassroots organizations simply don't have the resources to recruit enough adults.
"We are trying to eliminate some of those excuses," said Hill, founding chairwoman of Harlem CARES Mentoring Movement, a local branch of the National CARES Mentoring Movement.
"There's efforts to recruit the kids who need mentors but not a lot of concentrated effort to recruit the adults. We want to increase the number of adults in the pipeline," she said.
Cidra Sebastien, associate director of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, said the Harlem youth services organization will be at the fair because they are always in need of mentors willing to commit to being involved with teenagers or elementary school students for six to eight months.
For most people, the hardest parts of mentoring can be finding the time and being flexible enough to deal with young people, they said.
"For the young people we work with, consistency is an issue in their lives," Sebastien said. "It's about building another positive, strong relationship with someone who can mirror to young people what is possible in their lives."
Studies have found that mentoring helps kids to succeed and avoid trouble. According to a study from the California Mentor Foundation, 98 percent of kids with a mentor graduate from high school, avoid gangs and do not become pregnant as teens. About 85 percent don't try drugs.
Harlem is one of the neighborhoods across the city that is dealing with a rise in neighborhood youth crews. Police estimate there are at least 50 youth crews in Manhattan with 35 of them in Upper Manhattan. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has aggressively prosecuted several gangs involved with drug-selling, gun trafficking and broad daylight shootings.
"At the root of a lot of these challenges are that young people do not have the support they need to help solve these problems," Rogers said.
Rogers and Hill serve as mentors to young people. Hill meets regularly with two young adults just entering the workforce.
"On the days of our meetings they will call and say, 'Is our mentor coming?'" Hill said. "To know someone is expecting you and needs you keeps you standing with your shoulders upright because you know someone is looking."
For the last four years, Rogers has spent time with Christian Bond, 11, a fifth-grader at P.S. 28, through the mentoring program at The Brotherhood/Sister Sol. Sebastien said she has seen Christian "open up" during that time.
"He's like a big brother," said Christian, who is the youngest child and only boy among his mother's four children.
Christian added that he and Rogers do fun stuff like play basketball but that they have also participated in community literacy projects.
Christian's mother Elisha Peterson, 36, says Christian's father and uncle serve as his primary male role models but she's seen her son benefit from the time he spends with Rogers.
"It helps my son out a lot that he has someone else that he can relate to. Joe has exposed him to a the work he does in the community and it has altered his outlook on the world," Peterson said. "I consider him a part of my family."
Rogers, whose third grade mentor from Big Brothers Big Sisters took him to a college campus for the first time, said part of the goal of the fair, which they hope to make an annual event, is to change the perception of mentoring as something additional into something that is a regular part of people's lives.
"It's a small commitment but you have to show up every week," Rogers said. "It helps you get your priorities in order and makes you ask yourself what's important to you."
The Harlem Mentoring Fair, hosted by the NYC Mission Society, will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Minisink Townhouse at Lenox Avenue and 142nd Street. Prospective mentors will be matched with mentoring programs for the fall. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for details.