ColumnistsLauren Victoria BurkeOp-EdOpinionPolitics

U.S. Lawmakers, Mentors Reach Out to Young, Black Males at Recent Forum

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA News Wire Contributor)

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) hosted a recent summit on Capitol Hill focused on mentoring for African American males. Wilson was joined by Reps. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).

Rep. Wilson created a program called “5000 Role Models,” a dropout prevention and mentoring program that operates within the public school system. The forum, which focused on public policy around mentoring, was moderated by Michael Smith of the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

“On of the biggest responses to the call to action on this issue has been from Capitol Hill,” Smith said at Wilson’s event. “We need to make sure that young people know that they matter.”

Wilson said that she’s experienced, firsthand, the powerful influence that a caring adult can have on a young person’s life.

“This inaugural [My Brother’s Keeper Caucus] forum is one of many events to come,” said Wilson.

Before she came to Capitol Hill, Wilson worked as a teacher and served on the School Board in Miami, Fla. She told the audience in a packed room on Capitol Hill about the work of “5000 Role Models” and what motivated her to create the organization.

One of the many participants on a long panel of experts was NBA legend and former Detroit Piston Bob Lanier.

“The NBA was one of the first organizations to step up to President Obama’s call of action,” Lanier told the full room during his remarks. The NBA has a mentoring program called NBA Cares.

David Shapiro, the CEO of MENTOR, a non-profit group dedicated to closing the mentoring gap, said, “We need to make mentoring a part of the fabric of American life.”

Also present at the forum were Michael A. DeVaul of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, N.C., Arnaldo A. Gonzalez, the chief of growth and development of Miami-Dade Public Schools, Noelle Hurd, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, and Tom “Satch” Sanders, a former Boston Celtics player.

Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African American leadership. She can be contacted at and on twitter at @LVBurke.

PHOTO CAPTION: Rep. Frederica Wilson founded “5000 Role Models,” a dropout prevention and mentoring program. This photo was taken during a press conference about the missing Chibok girls in 2015. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

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Lauren Victoria Burke

Lauren Victoria Burke has covered politics on Capitol Hill since 1998. She began her career in journalism assisting Cokie Roberts at ABC News. Prior to that, she was a staffer on Capitol Hill. She has also worked for USA, The Washington Post, The Hill, and Associated Press. She is the author of two books, Birth of a Statesman, a 280 page book of photography documenting President Obama’s 2008 campaign for the White House and Election Daze a book she co-authored with Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee. She is the creator of, a blog on the Congressional Black Caucus and owns WDCPIX.COM photo service. Ms. Burke has covered several political campaigns including Hillary Clinton’s 2000 run for Senate and President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and the experience yielded two books, BIRTH OF A STATESMAN and PHOTO BOOK : 01.20.09 | INAUGURATION DAY, a LARGE 13 x 11 coffee table book of images created on the most historic day in American history, January 20, 2009, the inaugural of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. You can follow her on twitter @crewof42

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