Empowerment Conference Mentors Young Men

YOUNGSTOWN – Showing kids what’s possible is the mantra for the Promising Men Mentorship Program.

Mentors like Scott Washington and other area professionals spend their lunch hour on a Monday or Friday mentoring black and Hispanic boys. Three years ago, Washington and Bruce Rushton, his friend since kindergarten, created the nonprofit Kool Boiz Foundation.

The foundation will hold the Young Men’s Empowerment Conference: “What’s Possible” from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Eastern Gateway Community College. The event is targeted to young men of color in Youngstown City Schools in grades 7-12.

The conference will feature several speakers, a financial literacy course and free breakfast and lunch. Students can register for the free event at KoolBoizFoundation.org.

“We want to show kids there is opportunity here and people care about them and care about their success,” Washington said. “Our hope is for them to leave that conference knowing that there’s individuals who look like them that want to see a generation below to have it better than what we had, to have better opportunities and be better men.”

The conference will focus on exploring long-term success through education, leadership, life skills and hard work. There will be interactive discussions, workshops and a panel discussion.

“Our goal is to help these young men see and think about what’s possible for their lives by introducing them to a few successful men who look like them and who faced the same challenges they face today,” said Rushton, board president and CEO.

Kool Boiz Foundation provides educational, financial and emotional support for boys and young men of color, and advocates for youth, empowerment and change. Several local organizations are partnering with the foundation this year. They include Chemical Bank, Chick-Fil-A, the Boys and Girls Club of Youngstown and Giant Eagle.

Tracy Whitlow mentors two students from Youngstown Community School.

Promising Men Mentorship Program is an initiative of the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, which seeks to partner successful African-American and Hispanic men from the community to serve as role models and mentors for fifth- to eighth-grade boys. The works with The Kool Boiz Foundation and Boys and Girls Club of Youngstown.

According to mentor Ronnell Elkins, the mentoring group piggybacks off the United Way’s Success After 6 program, which helps students realize their potential and to excel in the classroom. The unique initiative provides wraparound services to break down barriers students and families face daily. The program is provided in 13 school sites, nine of which are in the Youngstown City School District.

More than a dozen college-educated professionals and residents who successfully turned around their lives donate their time at Youngstown Community School and Taft Elementary, helping kids develop healthy habits in education and with life issues. The program takes place during the student’s lunch hour once a week.

“It’s important for them to see men who look like them telling them what they can expect and what’s possible if they do XYZ and stay on the right path,” said Elkins, who also sits on the foundation’s board. “Many of these kids feel they are stuck. It’s why we have this dialogue so they don’t think this is the best they’re going to get. But to see that success is possible.”

Washington, who is a sales manager for All State Insurance, said it’s impactful for kids to hear from men of color who have overcome the same barriers they see and know they can make something different of their lives with hard work.

“Good takes time. Everything that comes fast to you is not necessarily the best for you,” he said. “All kids have talent. We just have to get them there.”

Pictured above: Promising Men mentors include Germaine McAlpine (left), Kenneth Boone, Ronnell Elkins, Steve Lemley, Tracy Whitlow, Rondel Armour and (seated) Scott Washington.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.