Roman J. Salamon

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One-on-one mentoring encourages young adult to follow his passion

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Craig Carlson has been a mentor with the Black Male Initiative for over a year now and has developed a strong bond with his mentee, Tamarius. Since entering the program, Tamarius has earned his GED, received a CNC Setup Operator Certificate from Rock Valley College, and is now preparing to follow his passion in audio engineering and recording with his own business.

Challenged with a disproportionately higher unemployment rate than other groups in our community (more than 4 times higher than men of the same age), inadequate job and education skills, and often times, systemic employment and employer bias, young black men like Tamarius grapple to find a sense of direction.

United Way responded to this challenge by creating BMI, a mentoring program that works along with services offered by Goodwill of Northern Illinois, Rock Valley College and The Workforce Investment Board. Case managers work with participants during a two-week "career boot camp" on setting individual success plans, focusing on employment and educational goals. Participants then are paired with trained mentors that provide weekly motivation, support, and stable guidance throughout the process. The entire group also gathers together for monthly dinner discussions intended to create a network of support and ensure the young men feel that they can truly succeed despite the obstacles they face.

Accomplishments to date include:
- 29 Total Enrollees
- 26 Men Entered without their GED —— 18 Completed their GED
- 12 Found Employment
- 6 Are Enrolled in Higher Education

Programs like BMI provide unique solutions to the problems in our community. In the case of Tamarius, Craig is "both humbled and exhilarated to see a young person find a true direction and create an opportunity for himself."

Stand up for those that need a voice and donate now to support programs like the Black Male Initiative that help the fight become a win. To get involved as a mentor with BMI, visit





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Guest Tuesday, 12 December 2017