Mentors never gave up on me, so I have to give back

June 7, 2020
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Mentors never gave up on me, so I have to give back

Mentors never gave up on me, so I have to give back

“I was diagnosed with a speech impediment at four years old. I am thankful for the YWCA at Toulminville because it gave me speech training at a young age. I didn’t want to read in front of the class or speak at all, but the mentors in my life never gave up on me. Teachers shared so much love and I wanted to give that back. In middle school, I started teaching Sunday school. I still fight through my speech impediment, but I have gone around the world for speaking engagements.

My mom was the biggest influence on my life, and she taught me the meaning of love. She was a single parent but was able to give each of her children what we needed. She rode the bus to take me to the YWCA, and that bus put her in a position to work and provide for us. Her children are now college graduates. Programs, resources, and public transportation helped her be successful and the things I do now are because of her.

I majored in history then taught school and worked in education for ten years. I am a church youth pastor and the director of the Boys and Girls Club Kiwanis Branch in Mobile. I came to this club as a kid. I was a volunteer teaching the Passport to Manhood program at the club before I became a director. You never know where volunteering can lead.

I give kids hope and inspiration. I let them know that regardless of how things look now, don’t use this as an excuse. Go deeper and harder. Have grit. I tell them about the past, but they have technology that can take them wherever they want to go in their future. We do community service, pick up trash, go to senior citizen homes. We bring in speakers. Exposure is the key, and we have to expose our youth to different professional people. This helps them to know the world and the possibilities. We teach financial literacy, healthy living, and music production. My goal is to teach them to imagine, ignite, and inspire. Imagine the things you want to accomplish. Ignite those ideas. Then you inspire others around you as you do it.

My dream was to come back to Mobile and be a teacher and a politician. I taught at Chastang Middle School while my sister was a student there. I was a special ed teacher in an inclusion classroom. The kids weren’t supposed to know who was the special ed teacher. It was amazing to see them help their peers. Because of my speech problems, I was considered special ed in school and understood the negative feelings from that label. I was exciting to be a part of a different teaching approach that removes the label.

In 2017, I ran for Mobile City Council. I wanted to give younger people a voice. I didn’t win, but I loved running and will do it again one day. We need good people in the political system who care about our community and young people. We need elected officials who can stop the division and stand up for right.

Mobile is a jewel. I have so much hope for us, but we need real conversations and create the power of one. Our youth go to school together. They need to be able to fellowship together. We should be so connected that when I hurt you hurt, and when you hurt I hurt. We have to create relationships where if something is going on in my community, it means it is also going on in your community because we are one.

We also need to plan. Our schools shouldn’t have fewer resources than another depending on the community they are in. Today Forest Hill Elementary and Holloway Elementary in Mobile don’t have playgrounds. There isn’t extra money in these communities to raise for playgrounds and our kids suffer.

Some schools are missing teachers. Chastain didn’t have a certified math teacher for five years while I was there. I am pretty good at math so I taught it because they needed me. When these kids go to high school, what position are they going to be in if they didn’t have an 8th-grade math teacher? How are they going to do on the ACT? I tutored kids after school in math and the scores went up. They are smart kids, but they need the resources and teachers to succeed.

We should stand up and say this isn’t right because we are one. How many engineers do we have in Mobile? Volunteer for an hour a week and teach math or tutor after school. Last year I served over 547 kids at the Boys and Girls Club. We need more volunteers and more funding. Give your time and money to get involved with a program that helps kids. Entrepreneurs should be talking with kids about starting businesses. Use any skill you have to teach these kids because this is how Mobile’s future gets better.

Today is my birthday and my brother told me, ‘If it wasn’t for you, I don’t know where my life would be.’ That is what I work for. I pray for a better society. I know it can happen.”

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