The New Milwaukee Mentor Initiative

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Milwaukee Bucks stars Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon will appear in public service announcements encouraging mentorship through the team’s new partnership with the Milwaukee Public Schools and city of Milwaukee to recruit mentors for 1,000 Milwaukee youth over the next two years.

Bucks co-owner Jamie Dinan and team president Peter Feigin said in December 2018 the organization was going to increase its community-involvement profile in 2019 and the new Mentor Greater Milwaukee partnership is the main vehicle for delivering that goal this year.

A tip-off event at Fiserv Forum Wednesday morning was to include a panel discussion with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, MPS Superintendent Keith Posley, Milwaukee Common Council president Ald. Ashanti Hamilton and Feigin. Also scheduled to attend were former Bucks star and NBA Hall of Fame member Bob Lanier, who is an ambassador for NBA Cares, and David Shapiro, the CEO of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.

The three partners said they were responding to a 2016 Public Policy Forum study that found an unmet demand for quality mentors in Milwaukee who can encourage and guide young people in school, work and their personal lives.

The Bucks, MPS and the city of Milwaukee will contribute $75,000 each to the initiative, said Bucks spokesman Barry Baum.

Mentor Greater Milwaukee already hired an executive director, Alicia Moore, who leads the new nonprofit for now at the team’s offices in Schlitz Park. Moore previously was program coordinator for community engagement at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Mentor Greater Milwaukee ultimately will seek additional funds from the Bucks’ majority owners, local Bucks owners and others, Arvind Gopalratnam, the team’s vice president of corporate social responsibility and executive director of the Milwaukee Bucks Foundation, told the Milwaukee Business Journal.

The mentor program’s offices will remain housed at the Bucks’ offices for 12 to 18 months until the new organization can raise additional funds, he said.

The Bucks are running the public service announcements starring players promoting mentorship at Fiserv Forum and on Bucks social media, Gopalratnam said.

The new program seeks to build capacity among about 20 agencies that already offer mentoring services and coordinate recruitment. The program also aims to improve training for volunteer mentors and ensure quality standards in mentoring efforts.

Addressing the Milwaukee community’s challenges is a passion of the Bucks’ owners and Feigin, Gopalratnam said.

“This is important for us and our community,” he said. “We want to use our platform to galvanize our community and bring the community together.”

The Bucks already host what they call “Own Your Future” events at the team’s offices during which employees discuss with kids career opportunities in the NBA beyond playing and coaching, Gopalratnam said. The Bucks want other area employers to host similar sessions, he said.

“Mentoring is not a one-off event,” Gopalratnam said. “We’re seeking commitments — quality relationships — negotiated between mentors and agencies.”

By Rich Kirchen – Senior Reporter, Milwaukee Business Journal