This Ambitious Program Has Pledged to Mentor 500,000 Children by 2022
At 19, Jack Manning Bancroft decided it was time to start changing the world. While in college in 2005, he launched AIME Mentoring, which pairs college students with young mentees from disadvantaged backgrounds. He quickly became one of the youngest CEOs in Australia's history. Now, he's expanding his “rebellious” mentoring program to help lift kids out of poverty by giving them the tools and role models they need to succeed.
“There was this self-perpetuating stereotype that said if you were a certain kid, like a natural athlete or a natural artist, then school wasn't a natural place for you. And I just thought that was bullshit,” Manning Bancroft tells InStyle. “If we keep telling the same old stories then we're gonna keep getting the same old results.” To change the game, Manning Bancroft and the AIME team are trying to turn university students into modern peer rock stars, to inspire the kids they work with. “Once you connect university students to these kids, they have a real-life example of someone outside their postcode that sees them, values them, and is like, ‘Hey kid, you exist. You matter,’ which creates a cycle of change. Then, instead of a hip-hop star they’re like, man I wanna be an engineer."
AIME has already tipped the scales — according to a 2018 KPMG report, which showed that indigenous youth who go through the AIME program have a higher rate of graduation and employment. But Manning Bancroft, 33, won’t stop there. With help from his partner, Orange if the New Black star Yael Stone, he plans to get 500,000 kids in the AIME mentoring program globally within the next three years. This includes 200 American students from various universities across the country who are entering the program as what AIME calls "hooded scholars," or mentors, early next year.
In February, AIME will host the first ever Festival of Mentoring and several of InStyle's Badass Women are hopping on a flight to Sydney to take part (exactly who, will be announced closer to the date). During the four-day festival, roughly 135 leaders, storytellers, and performers will be on hand to teach the AIME model to the 200 U.S. collegiate ambassadors, who will then kick off the U.S. chapter of the program.
For more information on this charter flight to “change the world” and Manning Bancroft’s goals for the program, as well as info on how you can get involved with AIME, check out their website.
In the meantime here's a quick Q&A with the organization's impassioned leader.
Why do you think change starts with these young kids?
I don't think young people are the only ones that can lead or be a part of change. But, we do know that education is the one controllable risk factor that can overcome disadvantage.
And throughout history in Australia, indigenous people have survived for more than 60,000 years — it's the longest surviving culture in the world. Part of their model is mentoring, passing on culture and knowledge so we don't make the same mistakes again. When we're facing a future with significant challenges from the amount of food that's gonna be available and rising sea levels to the challenges we have around inequality and access, [we need to] work out how we can borrow from the existing wisdom that's shown us in the past how to continue to survive so we can have human life existing for another 60,000 years. That is part of what we're trying to build on.
You’ve already expanded to South Africa and Uganda. Why continue to expand to the United States?
I got it started in Australia, and we've reached the point where AIME’s got the street cred. With that social currency, I can get a meeting with the Prime Minister and CEOs and all that sort of stuff. We probably could have sat there and just chilled out for 20 years and cashed in on the currency of what we've done for a decade. But I felt like we had this solution and we had to make sure that people knew about it. To me, it's like having a cure for cancer or something and then not sharing it.
What challenges have you faced already in trying to expand the AIME program?
Doing something good is seen as the liqueur that’s ordered after dessert, and it’s difficult to shift that mindset. But doing good isn't something you just say you'll do when you have [funds] available. You can weave it into your day-to-day life.
Also, being taken seriously when I was a 22-year-old CEO walking in to a meeting with a hooded sweatshirt and ripped jeans, everyone was like, "Who's this idiot?" And that still affects me. I'm certainly trained now, but I still have people confused by the look and feel of who I am. I just continue to follow through on the outcomes and the results [to be taken seriously].
Why do you think InStyle's Badass Women series felt like a natural partnership for AIME?
You can't let people stop you. You can't take no for an answer. I get rejected 500 times before lunch when I’m sending emails out trying to get meetings and doing all of this stuff on behalf of the kids. And someone once said to me, “You should never ever apologize for asking for help because you're offering people the opportunity to change people’s lives. And never forget who you're asking on behalf of — kids who don't have a voice.”
So, I think it's gotta be fast, it's gotta be urgent and you gotta get in people’s faces to get things done and I think that's what the badass edition is. It’s a bunch of people, like, "No I'm not waiting. I'm doing this now. I'm doing it yesterday." There's an urgency to this thing and if we have that attitude, then I know that change is possible.
What does your family have to say about what you’ve created?
I think my parents are proud and able to come to the party. My mum's one of the top aboriginal artists in Australia. So, we grew up being really proud of our aboriginality from her. She was so inspired when I started doing this. Since then, there’ve been lots of moments along the way when I've felt like I was gonna break, and wanted to quit, but she's just always been on the phone and saying, "You've got generations of people standing behind you, on your shoulders that need you to keep going.” My dad has also been really proud. Sometimes I don't think he's been able to find the words to recognize what we're doing, but I know that he loves me. And that's part of what AIME tries to do for kids. AIME is also French for “love,” which a lot of these kids don't necessarily have a lot of in their lives [let alone] someone that makes them feel confident.
And I'm lucky to have an awesome partner that I share my life with now. We’ve got a little baby girl, too so there’s a good little squad around us. [Stone] has been one of the ambassadors with us as well and I think she’s helped lead a lot of this stuff in the last couple of years by reaching out to people she knows and working as a point of council. You can't do any of this stuff without a really incredible support of people, and your inner circle of friends and family.
What’s your goal with the Festival of Mentoring?
We’re offering 200 college students a chance to get on a plane to Australia and be trained on how to run this model, how to prepare themselves to be mentors, guides, and leaders. Then they've gotta get on the ground and do what Obama did in Chicago, which is hustle.
I know that there's people sitting in the back of the college classroom who are hungry for change, who have anger inside of them and do not know where to put it. And, I'm most looking forward to giving those guys the chance to channel that energy and to not feel like they have to leave the [school] system disillusioned and defeated. I think, knowing that we're all human and that the greats are just human as well gives these guys the belief that they can be one of those people. They can actually create change from within. That’s the exciting part. I love teaching and I love working with humans and helping them believe what's possible.
I want to put the AIME model in their hands, ideally for free, so they can run with it. I want to convince people that things can change and convince people to turn up and ask for more, expect more from these kids, teachers, parents, and everybody around them. We’re trying to unleash the biggest movement of mentors across the USA. That'll be their one-year challenge, and we'll then support them throughout the following years.