The University

Opening Opportunities for Youths

As one of five children raised by a single mother in Pittsburgh, I had plenty of opportunities to be up to no good. Fortunately, I also had role models and mentors at every turn who encouraged me to do better.

If I happened to be standing on the corner after school with friends, there were men who would ride by and tell me, “Get off the corner.” My friends’ fathers would check our behavior if they saw us doing something wrong. And in high school, I participated in Upward Bound through the University of Pittsburgh. The mentors I met through that program opened up worlds of academic and social success to me; their influence in my life was tremendous.

I know I owe my success to the mentors I had as a young person – and I believe that all youths deserve the same chances that I was given. So I’m proud that the University of Massachusetts Boston provides similar mentoring opportunities for our underserved youths through programs like Upward Bound, Urban Scholars, Success Boston, and Freshman Success Communities.

Because this is an issue so close to my heart, I’m truly excited to share that UMass Boston has launched a partnership with Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit MENTOR, which helps children by developing and delivering resources to mentoring programs nationwide, in addition to conducting research on effective mentoring. I announced this partnership last month at the 2011 National Mentoring Summit in D.C., which was attended by leading mentoring organizations and researchers, along with government and civic leaders. First Lady Michelle Obama was keynote speaker.

The new UMass Boston/MENTOR Research Alliance will facilitate an exchange of mentoring research among scholars and policy makers, and use its findings to change the lives of our country’s youths for the better. UMass Boston Professor of Psychology Jean Rhodes, a nationally recognized expert on youth mentoring, will serve as the Alliance’s first research director and will hold the MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership Endowed Chair.

MENTOR serves young people between the ages of 6 and 18; its work over the past 20 years has helped millions of youths find the support and guidance they need to build productive and meaningful lives. The UMass Boston/MENTOR Research Alliance will help MENTOR further develop standards for mentoring at-risk children.

At UMass Boston, we are dedicated to the success not only of our own students but also of the children in our communities. This new partnership will uncover even more ways to be involved in their lives. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to “pay forward” the many advantages that I received from mentoring.

If you’d like more information on our new partnership, I encourage you to visit And if you’d like to learn firsthand what it’s like to belong to a university that is committed to and invested in the success of all children, it’s not too late: Prospective students have until April 1 to submit their applications for the fall semester.