Enriching mentoring relationships between volunteer adults and the teens who seek them out are living proof that “it takes a village,” and a reminder that African Americans have always nurtured children of the community who are not their own.
Mentor Kimberly Calhoun volunteers with Detroit’s Midnight Golf program. The MGP began as a safe streets initiative, along with Midnight Basketball, and retained the name long after it expanded its mission. The renowned academic enrichment and professional polishing program focuses on “college, career and beyond.”
Calhoun became a mentor three years ago when her son, Lorenzo Rollins, was a participant. He’s now a sophomore at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina; her daughter, K’lynn Rollins, is a senior there.
The orientation process for Midnight Golf mentors emphasized being authentic with the teens because “kids can sniff out a phony.”
Calhoun’s mentee, Chanel Barnes, said she applied to the program when she was a senior at Cass Technical High School because she wanted help preparing for college, learning how to network on a campus, and meeting like-minded peers.
Now a freshman at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Barnes says being paired with Calhoun was fulfilling because “we have the same high energy level.”
The two were matched by Midnight Golf staff to participate in the twice weekly program held at Marygrove College that includes a speaker, mentors serving and sharing a meal, and golf lessons by PGA pros. The mentors also lead small group “Tee Time” discussions, allowing the young people to grapple with selected topics in order to develop their judgment and their voice.
The game of golf is used to introduce discipline, strategy and a career-boosting skills because being comfortable out on the course comes in handy when a young professional is networking to navigate their way to the top.
Calhoun, a mother of two who holds a counseling degree, said it was while riding in a golf cart with her mentee that the two truly bonded. The teen shared her feelings about having lost her mother and sister in a 2014 house fire.
“It was just a peaceful time out there on the course with just the two of us and she trusted me and opened up,” she said. “I was able to tell her about losing my mother as well. We talked about coping and healing.”
“She’s there for me. She listens to me,” Barnes said. “She was there for me my senior year. She came to my prom send-off.”
The relationship is forged in communication that conveys the care. Barnes said. She’s appreciative of the special moments like when her mentor picked her up and took her out to lunch before she left home for her first year in college.
The two stay in contact by phone and Barnes says her mentor’s supportive advice and calls have helped her transition to the college campus.
Seeing the young adults blossom is the payoff, Calhoun said.
“We just want to support these kids, see them do well, and they remember it for life,” she said.