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Boris launches mentoring scheme

HERE COME THE BOYS: London mayor Boris Johnson and Ray Lewis with leaders of the future

THOSE WHO have been mentoring for years either formally or informally at a grassroots level have long been hammering home the need for positive role models to combat the negative influence of the streets.

So as London mayor Boris Johnson launched a scheme that has attracted 1,700 volunteers happy to mentor young black boys, many community leaders felt it was a long time coming but just pleased the day had come.

Ray Lewis, the mayor’s ambassador for mentoring, has been pushing for the scheme which will be run by the University of East London in a £1.3million deal funded by City Hall.

It will target black boys aged between 10 and 16 after statistics show they are the group most vulnerable to getting involved in, or falling victim to, violent crime.

Melvyn DaviS, of the Male Development Service, will lead the project.

Speaking at the launch event at the Epicentre, in Leyton, east London, yesterday (July 20) the mayor said: “Through no fault of their own, there are some young boys in our city in desperate need of a strong male role model.

“I want to reach out to those who may fall prey to the lure of gangs and violence and place them with positive, hard working males who can help guide them.”

Boys living in seven high-risk London boroughs – Brent, Croydon, Hackney, Haringey, Lambeth, Waltham Forest and Southwark – will be targeted.

Lewis, who runs the East Side Academy who works with young men at risk of exclusion, said: “Let’s be honest, many of our boys are growing up in single parent house holds with no father figures. Although there are many strong women raising boys single-handedly, mentoring can help lighten their load and have a dramatic, positive effect.

“No child is born a criminal and we’re trying to intervene and help build resilience to the temptations of joining a gang or resorting to violence to resolve problems. It is easy to criticise our young people who behave badly but unfortunately some have never been taught right from wrong. Mentoring is a real solution.”

Under the scheme, the boys will get face-to-face time with their mentors for at least two hours a week as they work towards achieving goals or just to offer advice.

With the support of his mentor Aaron Harriott, 17, of east London, was able to turn his back to gang life and go on to gain his GCSEs and is now signed to Stevenage Borough FC and is working towards a sports BTEC.

He said: “The reality of life in east London is that as you are growing up there are older people who are actively trying to recruit you to sell drugs. You might not want to go down that road, but sometimes it can feel like that’s all there is.

“Sometimes you just need someone to talk to. My mentor was that person for me.”

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