The city of Detroit is trying to digest a situation involving one its newcomers to the political scene and a young man he was supposed to be mentoring. Charles Pugh became a rising star in Detroit by being elected to Council President in 2009. He stated that he was well aware of the expectation and faith put upon him by the people of Detroit and he assured them he would not let them down. As of this week when civil charges were leveraged against him by a former mentee’s mother, Pugh has been under attack. After a medical leave was denied, Pugh seemed to disappear.
Pugh is being accused of having inappropriate contact with a minor, which he claimed to be mentoring, and a slew of questions loom about cash and gifts that were given. There are even text messages being released by the attorney for the family that will speak to the relationship between the youth and Pugh. It does not seem to be going in his favor. Pugh has been out of sight and contact for the past several days. Mentoring involves close and emotional contact with impressionable young people and needs to be handled carefully and responsibly.
In Latin the word for mentor is ‘Mentoris’ and gives the understanding of one that is wiser imparting that wisdom into another. It speaks of a relationship where the intent comes from an honest place. Unfortunately many have not had this experience in life. Whether from a teacher, boss or even a clergyman, we all can attest to that feeling of being let down by someone we looked up to. On those rare occasions when you are able to connect to a real mentor, it can however be a life changing time.
So what goes into connecting with a viable and safe mentor? It’s not difficult to see the need, but there remains a mystique around acquiring a mentor.
- When searching for a mentor, start by being realistic: Unless people have P.R. reps on speed dial in Hollywood, give up the dream of having a superstar or pro athlete as their personal mentor. They don’t need to find a celebrity. If people look within their industry or school system, they will find viable candidates.
- A mentor is someone who is already “doing” what another wants to do: The key word is “doing”! Be mindful of people full of zeal to call “mentees” their next project. It isn’t rude to do a little research on a potential mentor. Make sure they are more than a “Facebook Phenomena.” These days, there are tons of fakers out there. A mentor is usually found operating in the same area of interest.
- When contacting a mentor, remember to keep things professional: Time is a currency successful people never waste. As one reaches out to a mentor, drop the emotions and get to the point. If they need a friend, go find one. A real mentor isn’t trying to be their buddy or coffee partner. Make and keep scheduled meetings and always honor their time. One never wants to be a burden by disrespecting a mentor’s time.
- Show the mentor you are invested: Once they’ve gained access to a mentor, it is their responsibility to be flexible to their schedule and invest the work to maximize their wisdom. When they suggest books, conferences or resources, get them. This shows one isn’t looking for handouts and wants to advance.
Many in society are bent on the thought that experience is the best teacher. In reality, some experiences people have gone through were totally avoidable and ended with them wasting valuable time and money. Had a mentor been present, they could have easily relied on their experiences and been ushered into another level. In retrospect, people tend to realize that their situations have allowed them to grow and develop further along. The point is that some things could have been just as instructive from someone else’s perspective. In any case, it is evident that mentors are a valued asset as we navigate forward.
When laypeople speak to those who have obtained greatness, they will quickly identify the presence of a coach or mentor who served as a catalyst for their careers. The bottom line is no one gets to the top of their industry alone. Often, many individuals have contributed their experience and wisdom as seeds, and others live in the results of the harvest. When people embrace the power of mentorship available to them they are sure to watch their potential soar.
Pugh and the organization he represented stood as system of hope for young men in Detroit. No one ever said mentoring was easy or without its frustrations. Regardless of Pugh’s innocence or guilt, our communities cannot lose faith in the structure of mentorship. Instead, we must all be more actively aware and involved in the process of selecting mentors for our children.
On Monday, we will learn more about the civil lawsuit expected to be filed against Pugh. There is no formal word on any criminal charges at this time, but Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has reached out to the family of the boy to help explain how to file criminal charges should they choose to follow that path. What we do know currently is that A Metro Detroit attorney representing an 18-year-old man and his mother claims Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh had an inappropriate relationship with a student at Douglass Academy. And Pugh’s location is unknown.
By: Cherese Jackson
Virginia Beach, VA