Talking about race – Training, conversation in works

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Big Brothers Big Sisters Services in Winston-Salem is launching an initiative to improve race relations, thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem.

The organization’s staff, which is half white and half black, will be trained to talk about race with its volunteers, who serve as mentors for typically low-income youngsters ages six to 13 years old.

Seventy percent of the volunteers are white, while 92 percent of the youngsters are black.

Volunteers, youngsters and their parents also will receive training on issues of race, racial stereotypes and tolerance.

The project also will provide incentives for volunteers and their families, and for youngsters and their families, to invite one another to their homes for dinner.

The Reynolds Foundation, which funded the project as part of its $1 million initiative to bridge racial differences, has encouraged Big Brothers Big Sisters to create a training curriculum that can be shared with other mentoring programs.

Patricia Fling, the group’s director of development, says the group was not aware of other mentoring programs that provide training on race relations.

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