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Pastor Raymond A. Jetson, President/CEO of MetroMorphosis, speaks at lectern on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, at an announcement by the Urban Congress on African American Males in Baton Rouge that it will launch its campaign to recruit 1,000 community members for its mentor network training initiative, slated for National Mentoring Month in January 2018. Others, background from left, representing community partners include Antoinette Pierre, City of Baton Rouge P3 program manager, Laura Vinsant, Teach For America executive director, Big Buddy executive director Gaylynne Mack, 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge President Fred Sibley, Istrouma High principal Reginald Douglas, Michael 'A.V.' Mitchell, Urban Congress director of engagement and impact, Assistant East Baton Rouge District Attorney Will Jorden and Ryann Denham, City Year Baton Rouge Executive Director/Vice President.

ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY TRAVIS SPRADLING

The mayor and Metro Council, and many law enforcement agencies, have been tangled in some controversies over federal grants and the anti-violence initiative in Baton Rouge, BRAVE. There is much blame to go around.

But what is missing in this conversation?

Hope, and aspiration, and the role models that young people need to envision their paths forward to better lives.

That is what we hope will be provided, or given more impetus, through the work of Metromorphosis, the civic improvement organization founded by the Rev. Raymond Jetson.

Jetson said a number of community service groups are banding together to train 1,000 new and existing mentors for black boys and teens in Baton Rouge.

The initiative of the Urban Congress on African-American Males in Baton Rouge will create a network of organizations already mentoring the youth, recruit new mentors, and then send them through mentorship training in January.

Groups such as Teach for America, 100 Black Men, and the Boys and Girls Club will bring existing mentors to the training sessions that will be organized by the Urban Congress.

It is our hope that this will expand upon the valuable work of groups that are already showing young people of color that the world has more for them than dead-end jobs or crime.

When 100 Black Men organizes ACT prep classes, using the local Mastery Prep curricula, the teaching is of obvious value; when a young mentor from City Year works with children in local public schools, the help with homework or just simple oversight and encouragement is good for that student.

But the young men who see a successful businessman giving of his time for them may have a larger impact. Teach for America and City Year cultivate service-minded young people who are not too far removed in age from the students they teach; that near-peer model may well inspire the student who doesn't see much point in schoolwork.

Polishing and upgrading of mentor skills, and expanding the base of those working with boys in Baton Rouge, can only help. It may not be as flashy or controversial as the disputes that have filled the headlines during the past year. Ultimate success in law enforcement is not about locking more people up, but catching the vulnerable population of young men before they wreck their lives, and that helps drain the swamp created by poverty and lack of opportunity.