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Being a mentor is a full time job. It is often very hard to know if you are doing well at it.  I work with kids everyday in my organization, Hip-Hop Chess Federation. Today one of the kids I mentor was talking to me about his life goals (we will call him Marcus).  Sometimes Marcus jokes a lot. I saw some of  his constant joking as a mask.  I pulled him aside today, and after wishing him Happy New Year I asked “When you sit at home after school, what do you dream about being?”

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Marcus quickly glanced around to make sure nobody could hear him and said without hesitation “A genetic engineer.”  His face was serene, but serious. You could tell he’s probably never shared that dream. It is my job to help him manifest that dream.

“So what is keeping you from that right now?” I inquired.

“Mostly my math grades” he said, using his foot to play with pebbles on the ground.

Marcus and I made a deal.  I told him I’d introduce him to an African American friend of mine at who worked in the field of genetic engineering. But he would have to bring his math grade up.  He smiled at the idea after we shook hands.

As we talked more I told him more about life after high school.  How quickly you and your friends no longer hang out.  How life gets in the way over time.  People go to college, get jobs, move away, have babies etc.  I told Marcus that it was important for him to really embrace his vision of what he wants to be, because he is truly in charge of it.

“In the end it all comes down to the three C’s” I said: College, career, or crime.

College: The best thing for you to do is stay in school.  This economy is cold right now.  It is harder to survive out here than you understand. You need the education and the network of college to get beyond the invisible walls of the ghetto.  College is essential.  There is no better option for you in this time.  If you won’t go to college, then you have to dedicate yourself personally to studying online, and spending your extra money on books. Nothing ensures your safety like knowledge.

Career: If you don’t stay in college, your career is your path to peace. You have to stay focused. You must to put in extra hours studying you craft, so you can excel. Be someone your boss can depend on. Try to do something you like, it will make the hard times easier.

Crime: If you fail to do the first two, crime is your destiny. An uneducated Black man, cannot get a job. A Black man with no job will inevitably get an empty stomach, because he’s a living organism. A Black man with an empty stomach for extended periods of time, will be compelled to do crime. You can’t afford to do crime. So choose one of the first two.  I fear for many of the young Black males at this school because they take the other two like it is a joke. This makes their destiny in prison almost guaranteed. But it does not have to be like that for them, or you.

The bell rang, Marcus smiled and thanked me. He gave me a pound and headed to class. “The three C’s!” he said walking off down the hall.

I hope sharing the three C’s work for Marcus. I hope sharing the three C’s with you helps somebody you care about.


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