After recognizing the need to provide mentors to young men in the Kent area, Kendrick Glover and Sylvester Craft started Glover Empower Mentoring, or G.E.M. for short.
Glover, a former Kent-Meridian High School counselor, and Craft met about seven years ago and mentored young men in the community informally, getting together on Sundays for a basketball game and a meal.
The two reconnected recently and decided to start mentoring again. The first mentoring session was on Nov. 4.
The group is open to any young men ages 13-21, although the target population is African-American and Hispanic males, who are often overlooked, Glover said.
“No one really showed an interest in them,” he said.
The group meets each Wednesday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Kent Parks Community Center, 11000 SE 264th St. Dinner is provided each week.
Glover said he is grateful to the city for providing G.E.M. a space to meet. He said the city, particularly Mayor Suzette Cooke, has been supportive of G.E.M.’s mission. Glover said he and Craft saw Cooke at an event last summer and approached her about the mentoring program.
Cooke said the city was happy to support the program, and the community center was the perfect place for the mentoring program.
“It (the community center) is a place people choose to go to spend time, to build skills and social networking. It is a safe environment,” Cooke said. “It (G.E.M) fits very well into philosophy of our city’s recreation division.”
Cooke said she is glad to see a program like G.E.M. in the city.
“I am impressed by the team of leaders that work on how to reach some of our male youth,” she said. “The leadership that came together in organizing the nonprofit is so attuned to the challenges that male teenagers face as they develop their character.”
Craft said the program is growing.
“We started out with two young men,” he said.
Glover said about 20 young men are signed up for the group, and an average of 12 to 15 attend each week.
There are six mentors volunteering for G.E.M., including Glover and Craft.
One of the mentors, Mike Knoll of the Renton area, said he has done a lot of mentoring in the past, but never in a setting like G.E.M.
“This one has a little more dynamic,” he said.
Knoll said a lot of mentoring programs focus on one-on-one relationships, and while G.E.M. does try to foster personal relationships, weekly roundtable discussions on a variety of topics, allow participants to learn from mentors as well as each other.
“We don’t talk at them,” Glover said. “We talk with them.”
Topics have included what students need to graduate from high school, love languages, Black History Month and using improvisation techniques to handle daily situations.
“We try to provide good support,” Knoll said. “We are out to help them succeed.”
Glover said the program emphasizes the importance of academics.
“One of the keys to rise above is academics,” Craft said. “If you don’t get an education you’re setting yourself back.”
The mentors try to set an example for the young men, putting to practice what they preach. Craft and mentor Jimmy Brown recently completed bachelor’s degrees.
Craft said the goal of the program is to help the young men succeed.
“We don’t want to tell them where to go,” Craft said. “We want to know where they want to go and provide them the tools to get there.”
Mentor Al Green of Auburn said he has enjoyed getting to know the young men in the program.
“These guys are remarkable,” he said. “When you sit down and listen to them they open up. They just needed someone to listen.”
The father of a 21-year-old son, Green has seen firsthand the importance of mentors and role models for young men.
“Sometimes they need another avenue other than their parents,” he said.
Da’sean Beckham, 12, a seventh-grader at Rainier Middle School in Auburn, said he asked his mother if he could attend the group after they found out about it at Halloween outreach.
“I just felt like I needed a father figure,” Beckham said. He said the mentors have been able to fill that role.
TreSean Ousley, 17, a junior at Kent-Meridian High School, said he learned about the group while playing basketball. Craft challenged Ousley to a game.
“He said I had to come if I lost,” Ousley said. “I beat him but I came anyway.”
Ousley said he likes the way the group is structured.
“I am learning how to go through situations.” he said.
G.E.M. is looking for donors, mentors and volunteers. While only men can mentor, Craft said anyone can help in variety of roles, including tutoring, cooking, giving presentations to the group and fundraising.
For more information about G.E.M., visit http://gemontoring.wix.com/gementoring.