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Montreal initiative aims to help Black youth find path to success

A team of researchers and educators is about to launch a pilot project meant to help young Black men succeed.

It’s called Flex to Launch and the goal is to help those at risk find their path while addressing the gaps often found in the education and career development of Black youth.

It is targeting Black youth aged 18 – 25 because, according to lead researcher Dr. Robert Edward Whitley, associate professor in McGill university’s department of psychiatry, they tend to fall into the NEET category.

“NEET is an academic word that means ‘not in education, employment and training,’” he explained. “We do know that young Black men tend to be overrepresented in that category.”

The program starts in January.

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It’ll be a series of 12 weekly 90-minute seminars in which the candidates will learn life skills geared to help them succeed, the kind of support those leading the project say many young Black men in Canada have trouble getting elsewhere.

“Some of our young Black men are ending up in youth protection and for others, the families are having difficulty,” said Valerie Gordon, a former teacher now part of the three-person team leading the project.

She says there are a number of reasons this segment of the population is at risk.

For one, she believes many parents pay more attention to girls than boys.

“Women, especially single women, tend to keep the girls around them in the home, they tend to supervise the girls more, and they tend to leave the boys on their own,” she pointed out.

Engaging Black youth in STEM

She says boys often lack role models, something potential participant, 18-year-old Shakhor Corbin said he’s heard from his peers.

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He believes it’s something that can be addressed in the project.

“A couple of my friends had said (they need) tools to being a man, because sometimes we don’t always have father figures at home,” he told Global News.

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Project leaders and others stress that many Black young men can’t access the resources they need and lose their way, even if they stay in school.

“They need direction, guidance,” said youth mentor Svens Telemaque, pointing to the added effects of the pandemic. “COVID has affected a lot of youth and a lot of youth are really confused as to what they want to do and why they want to do it.”

The pilot project starts with Montreal youth and will end with mentoring and help for the first batch of candidates to get jobs.

If successful, it’ll expand to include other Black youth across the country.

&copy 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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