Organizations: Operation Dream, Black and Latino Male Achievement Program (BLMA) and St. Ben’s Community Meal Program
Volunteer Service: Since 2008
How are you involved with these community organizations?
The majority of my volunteerism revolves around mentorship. During the week, I mentor teens in Milwaukee public schools through the Black and Latino Male Achievement Program (BLMA). We have development discussions around respect, strength and encouragement. On the weekends, I volunteer with Operation Dream, helping in the children’s classroom and meeting with young men in a mentor capacity. In addition, I occasionally serve meals to the homeless through St. Ben’s Community Meal Program.
Through my involvement with Associated’s colleague resource group, Cultural Awareness Network (CAN), I often organize opportunities for colleagues to join me at these and other Milwaukee-area organizations throughout the year.
How did you first get involved?
When I joined CAN, another colleague told me about Operation Dream. The kids there really touched my heart—all the young boys were so happy when I visited. It was obvious they needed a male figure in their lives, and it made me want to provide that for them.
BLMA was launched at Milwaukee Public Schools in the fall of 2017. The executive director is a friend of mine, so I jumped at the opportunity to get involved to mentor youth through that program as well.
What is the most rewarding part of volunteering with these organizations?
I would say it’s two-fold. First, the people we serve are so appreciative of our support. Seeing that you’re making a difference in their lives makes it easy to keep going back. Second, it’s very rewarding to establish new relationships within the community. It has helped me meet a lot of people and learn about other areas of need.
Can you share a memorable experience you’ve been a part of through your volunteerism?
The first time I volunteered with Operation Dream, I just remember how excited the boys―all roughly 5 or 6 years old—were for me to be there. They all wanted to sit on my lap while I read them books. Their eyes were so bright looking up at me—I could tell they wanted to learn, and they wanted to learn from me as an adult male figure in their lives. That touched my heart so much that I wanted to do it further with BLMA. The teenagers in that program really listen to what I say. And when you hear them talk about how they resolved problems and adversities on their own, it renews my faith in their future.
How do you feel mentoring has changed you as a person?
It has helped me prioritize and focus on the things that are most important. It isn’t about self-achievement, but what I can do to give back to the community. I want to give the next individual hope or promise as they grow and move towards the future. I hope that through my involvement I can give them a different outlook on their life and add value.