Mayor challenges Memphians to mentor young people in 2017 ‘call to action’

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- City leaders said mentoring is part of the path forward in helping Memphis move on from a year of darkness, with a record-high number of homicides.

"The idea is to give people hope and an avenue that’s positive for them to reach to and to become a productive part of society,” said Ursula Madden, chief communications officer for the city of Memphis.

Mayor Jim Strickland and his administration chose mentoring as one of three calls to action for the new year.

The city tapped Austin Baker’s organization The Giving Hour to help.

“Having a way for people to sign up and engage with mentoring organizations is our mission,” Baker said.

Their goal is to get as many companies and organizations to commit their employees to becoming mentors.

He said they already had 10 groups committed, including 100 people from the mayor’s office.

They hoped to have 10,000 people sign up to participate.

“There are a lot of different ways you can mentor in the community some are more involved like an hour a week, some may be an hour a month or so,” Baker said.

Baker counted the Boys and Girls Clubs, Tennessee Achieves, the Memphis Institute of Leadership Education, the Grizzlies Foundation and Youth Villages as partner mentor organizations.

“People who are mentored, they stay in school, they graduate college and they go on to pass along to other people and mentor others," Madden said.

But critics called the mayor misguided and declared mentoring is not enough.

"He’s ignoring what everybody knows is the problem. Everybody knows. They’ll say it off camera. Schools are the problem. Poor public education is what's causing the crime," community activist Pastor Kenneth Whalum said.

You can sign up for mentoring opportunities by visiting this website.