In January 2008, I left Essence magazine after 37 years to join with community leaders in mounting the largest mentoring movement in the history of the nation. Founded in 2006 as Essence CARES, the National CARES Mentoring Movement is today a fast-growing coalition of some of the nation's most trusted organizations, concerned Black Americans and caring supporters.

The vision for starting Essence Cares came in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. We could not take the annual Essence Music Festival back to the city over the 2006 July 4th weekend, so we moved it temporarily to Houston. I thought about what I might ask of the 200,000 people who would gather in Houston to enjoy the festivities that would make a difference in the life of our community. Fueled by this vision of mentoring as a weapon to fight the forces damping young lives, I reached out to celebrities Terrence Howard, Mo'Nique, Jamie Foxx, Danny Glover, Mary J. Blige, Shemar Moore, Jennifer Holliday, Jill Scott, Elise Neal, Yolanda Adams, Yo-Yo, MC Lyte, Common and many others. I called Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, T.D. Jakes and the leaders of some of our most trusted organizations in the nation to join me: Marc Morial of the National Urban League, Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund, Michael Lomax of the United Negro College Fund, and Bruce Gordon, then president of the NAACP. No one refused; they and many other leaders traveled to Houston at their own expense, as did Michael and Marcia Dyson, Angela Davis, Kevin Powell, Terrie Williams and many other activists and scholars. It was moving and inspiring to see people change their holiday plans to help issue the call to commitment and action to the community. What was founded in Houston as Essence Cares has grown today to become the National CARES Mentoring Movement. But the first person I called was the successful and highly regarded Atlanta-based business leader Thomas W. Dortch, Jr., chairman emeritus of the National 100 Black Men of America and now National CARES chairman. It was my great honor then as it is now to work with so dedicated a soul on offering a lifeline to our young who are crying out for help.

My time at Essence was a great blessing. When I joined the company as the beauty editor, I was a struggling single mother who hadn't yet gone to college. Today—most days—I feel strong from within, joyful, and secure. My life has been transformed, and I am grateful. For me, this Movement is very personal; it is my way of giving back to my community that has given so much to me.

That you have taken the time to visit this site affirms that you, too, are ready to answer our young people's cry for our commitment. I ask that you take the time to explore the site further, and then take the first step of entering your zip code above to get connected to a mentoring opportunity in your community or even to work with me and the national and community leadership in a local CARES mentor-recruitment circle. Mentoring works miracles. By committing just four hours of your time each month, you can save a young person's life.

Thank you in advance for answering our young people's cry for help. I look forward to our coming together to do the most important work of our life: the critical quest to save and secure our young.

One Love,

Susan L. Taylor

Founder and CEO, National CARES Mentoring Movement

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