A handful of young men from Wyandotte High School’s Boys’ Varsity basketball teamgathered for a special match making ceremony on Thurs., Jan. 4.  These weren’t basketball matches, or sweetheart matches, but mentor matches – an adult male match who in a new All-American pilot mentor program.  

The mentors, a group of accomplished and successful men from the local community, will spend the next six months providing advice, showing support, and most importantly, listening to any concerns the student may have about life.

The purpose of the program is to help guide these young student-athletes as they approach adulthood.

Those selected as mentors will periodically meet with their assigned student either in person, via email, phone call, or text. Mentors are encouraged to be a positive influence on mentees. That includes avoiding negative comments, judgment, or criticism of the student.\

As for the mentees, they were instructed to be ready with questions and be willing to talk about concerns or doubts they may have. They were encouraged to listen to the advice given because it may help them in their decision-making.

The first meeting included a tie-tying session. Mentors showed mentees how to properly tie a tie. It was also an opportunity for a one-on-one conversation between mentor and mentee.

Junior Kamari Murray enjoyed his first day as a mentee. “I think it was very helpful and inspirational,” said Murray.

The pilot program is the brainchild of Wyandotte Boys’ Varsity Basketball Coach Marcus Johnson Sr. He, along with Wyandotte High School Business Teacher Sheyvette Dinkens, will serve as administrators of the program.

Coach Johnson knows that life is more than just about sports. He wants to provide his players with a positive pathway to being productive adults.

“Basketball is what I want to coach, but what I’m more concerned with is, can my athletes go to college? If not college, what’s the next step for them,” said Coach Johnson.

The mentor program started with a group of Coach Johnson’s players. If all goes well, he hopes the program can expand next year. But for now, he wants to concentrate on this small, core group and make sure they are progressing.

 “Right now, we’re checking their grades, we’re checking attendance, and we’re checking practice of course. We’re doing that to see what effect we’re having and how we can have a greater effect next year.”

Coach Johnson is also using this pilot program to help strengthen his basketball team.

“Part of this is, I’m looking for leaders on the court. Well, who took the time to show them what that means? We want them to know things they really don’t know how to be,” said Johnsonm who hopes this program will lead his players in the right direction, not only as athletes, but as men.

The inaugural mentorship program is made possible by the Wyandotte High School PTSA, in partnership with Parent Power Lab, KU Gear Up and the 20/20 Leadership Program, sponsored by Soft Warfare.