The idea for the Torrance North High School Mentor Program (Mentor Program) originated in a conversation about shared experiences as Black men and women, according to Tuski Mason, president of the Torrance Refinery League of Black Professionals (LoBP).

“We [League Members] were recounting our similar experiences, of facing challenges, really – growing up as Black individuals in our own neighborhoods. We kept saying, if we only knew then what we know now some things could have been easier,” said Mason. “That conversation has stayed with us, recognizing how fortunate we are to have made it to where we are in our lives, as professionals being in a position to help others who may be encountering similar struggles.”

From this desire, combined with the long-term relationships the Torrance Refinery has built with the Torrance Unified School District (TUSD), the LoBP developed and launched the Mentor Program in partnership with North School in 2019. The program partners NHS’s YBE students with Black professionals from the Torrance Refining Company (TORC) to help equip students for success in life by engaging in active discussions and assignments focused on promoting self-discovery and empowerment in all facets of their personal and educational lives.

The program provides students with the necessary life-building tools, including self-awareness, self-reliance, positive self-image, and cultural pride, and offers students opportunities to engage in open, authentic, and respectful conversations to become effective in intercultural dialogue. Torrance North Principal Sheck noted the positive impact the program has had on students. “In a time when much needed conversations are happening about the importance of black lives, this program has opened up a unique way of reaching the hearts and minds of our NHS students. For teenagers, having other trusted adults with whom they can talk is important – some messages just resonate better that way and I know this has been the case for our mentees. Students and their parents have shared with me how grateful they are for the program and how meaningful it has been. This program has created a wonderful platform for other student groups to explore the benefits of having mentors. We are grateful to have such an incredible group of mentors, and friends, to partner with North High and our students!”

LoBP member Nickole Williams explains, “Representation matters especially when growing up. Seeing ourselves in these young kids, we know what a difference it would make for them to see in others the potential of what they can become – and with that in mind, we hope to provide guidance to help them reach their highest potential to chart their own successful course in life.”

The Mentor Program recently received the Vanguard Award from the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce on May 19 during its “Educate, Celebrate, Elevate Diversity Awards” (Diversity Awards). The Diversity Awards 2021 marks the Chamber’s first event celebrating multiculturalism and diversity in the community by recognizing 10 community members, both individuals and organizations, for their achievements and leadership in fostering inclusivity and promoting access for all. Congratulations to all the honorees.

“Surprised,” “amazed,” “grateful” and “motivated” were words the LoBP mentors used to describe winning the Award upon hearing of the news. Former LoBP President Scott Lafayette explained, “We are extremely grateful to all involved for the support, trust and faith they placed in us in our efforts to make a positive impact on these young people’s perceptions and life experiences. Receiving recognition for our efforts really means a lot to all of us. However, we want to keep in mind what this Award is really about – helping to bring about change in our world, by reaching one person at a time. We’re committed to continuing on this path.”