Once a troubled teen, Glover blossoms as a mentor, leader in community | Person of the Year

When Kendrick Glover was sentenced to 10 years in prison for robbery at the age of 16, he could have given up.

Kendrick Glover has come full circle from spending four years in prison as a teenager to now mentoring youth in the Kent area.

Kendrick Glover has come full circle from spending four years in prison as a teenager to now mentoring youth in the Kent area.

When Kendrick Glover was sentenced to 10 years in prison for robbery at the age of 16, he could have given up.

“When that judge told me that I was going to go to prison, it was a crush,” he said. “I thought, ‘I am going to die. I don’t have anything else to live for.'”

But Glover didn’t give up. Instead, the 32-year-old Kent man is using his story to show youth that they can succeed in life.

Glover is the director and co-founder of Glover Empower Mentoring (GEM), a program geared toward young men ages 13-21.

Glover’s dedication to serving youth in Kent and the surrounding communities has made him the Kent Reporter’s Person of the Year for 2015.

“You can make mistakes in your life, but you can turn it around,” Glover said. “You can turn tragedy into triumph.”

Raised in a single-parent household in Natchez, Miss., Glover got in with the wrong crowd at a young age.

“Being raised by two women — my mother and my grandmother — they couldn’t necessarily show me the ropes on how to be a man,” he said. “It was just learning things on my own. That street life just kind of took over.”

Serving four years of his 10-year prison sentence was the turning point for Glover.

“It really was a savior for me in a way, because what it did for me was give me an opportunity to take life for really what it was and not to take advantage of it anymore,” Glover said, “but take my life, take that bull by the horns and just really ride it.”

Glover earned his GED while in prison and a few months after his release he took and passed the ACT.

“I never had a high school career,” he said. “I never truly had a middle school career either. The last physical grade I completed was sixth grade.”

He decided to apply to college at Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., where many of his friends went.

On July 18, 2003 – Glover’s 20th birthday – he received a special birthday present.

“I went to the mailbox at my mom’s house and in the mailbox was a letter from Jackson State University with an acceptance letter,” he said. “It was crazy because seven months prior to this I was released from prison. For me to go from a prison cell to a college campus was a huge accomplishment.”

Glover decided to study criminal justice at Jackson State.

‘My goal up until four years ago was to be a juvenile attorney,” he said. “My goal was to stop kids from being in the system. I didn’t want kids to go through what I had to go through and live the life that I lived.”

Glover did well in school maintaining a 3.0 GPA, but a lack of money led him back to his old life and he was eventually kicked out of Jackson State after getting into a fight.

In June 2005, Glover moved back to Natchez.

“That was the place that I vowed never to go back to, because if I was there I was going to be right back with the same old guys doing the same old thing,” he said.

Important, influential call

But a phone call from his aunt in Seattle changed his life’s course.

“When she called I answered the phone at my mom’s house and she was like, ‘What are you doing at home?'” Glover said. “I was like, ‘I am just here on break,’ and she was like, ‘There’s no break. School is not out yet.’ “

After learning Glover had been kicked out of school, his aunt offered to buy him a bus ticket so that he could move to Seattle.

Glover said his aunt was one of his biggest supporters while he was in prison.

“She told me, ‘You are in this for a reason. Be strong. You can’t see it now, but something is happening. God is doing something with your life. You’ve just got to hold on,'” Glover said. “Her words just really got me through the time I was incarcerated.”

After a three-day bus ride, Glover arrived in Seattle and decided to go back to school to finish his degree.

On Father’s Day, 2008, Glover graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Seattle University. About 25 members of his family traveled to Seattle to see him graduate.

“I think they came because they didn’t believe it,” he said. “It was just an amazing feeling because everybody was so proud of me. It was a huge accomplishment, not only for me, but for my family. It was one of those moments I would never forget.”

After graduating, Glover interned for King County Councilmember Larry Gossett and then became a mentor at Dimmitt Middle School and Black River Alternative High School with the Police Activities League (PAL) through the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Glover was considering going to law school but decided instead to pursue a master’s degree in education and counseling.

“I think that was God telling me that is not the route I want to take you because he gave me this job with this mentoring program and he placed me inside of the schools,” Glover said. “Then my mind started to think, ‘Why would you become a lawyer and work with students after they get charged or commit a crime when you can work with them inside of the schools?’ “

After graduating from City University in 2012, Glover started working as a counselor at Kent-Meridian High School.

“That was my first time really understanding how youth are affected in the educational system,” he said. “It really opened my eyes up to education.”

Glover now works for the Puget Sound Educational Service District as a program manager for Puget Sound College and Career Network, helping increase student achievement and closing the opportunity gap.

He is also working on a doctoral degree.

“If you would have have told me 13 years ago when I was released from prison that I would be going for my Ph.D., being only a year and half away from achieving a Ph.D., not having nothing but a sixth-grade education, I wouldn’t have believed that in a million years,” Glover said.

Serving youth

While working with PAL, Glover got involved in underground mentoring at Kent-Meridian High School. On the weekends the school’s principal would open the gym to Glover and other mentors to play basketball with youth. The program folded when the principal left the school. Glover began mentoring again while he was a counselor at K-M.

Seeing the need for a community mentoring program, Glover and Sylvester Craft, who met while doing underground mentoring, decided to start GEM in 2014. The program now has about 25 young men and 11 mentors participating.

“I knew there was something special about him,” Craft said of Glover.

After hearing Glover’s story, Craft encouraged him to share it with others, especially youth.

“The kids believe in him,” Craft said. “They trust him. When he is really open with those kids it causes them to be open as well. He has a way of reaching certain kids that other mentors may not be able to reach.”

Ricardo Valencia-Alvarez, 15, started attending GEM after meeting Glover at the Black and Brown Summit at Highline College.

“Kendrick has influenced me since the first day I met him,” Valencia-Alvarez said. “He had that personality that made me want to be with him. I knew he was going to take me to greatness.”

Valencia-Alvarez said Glover and the other mentors are father figures to the young men in GEM.

“Since I don’t have a dad and mostly everybody in there doesn’t have a dad, they care for you,” he said.

Glover is passionate about serving youth and hopes his story can be an inspiration.

“I just want to tell my story to give youth in detention, to give youth in prison, to give youth in school systems, to give youth who are just lost that are just out there, to give young adults, to give even adults an opportunity to see somebody, to really see someone and hear a story of passion, of encouragement, of empowerment,” he said.

Glover also serves on the Kent Parks Commission and King County’s Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee, where he advocates for the needs of youth.

“I have a passion for being a servant leader, and my servant leadership is directly tied to youth and young adults,” he said. “I think that is my life purpose to be a beacon light for those youth who don’t see past tomorrow.”

Glover said he would like to see GEM expand and be in all of the schools in the Kent School District, and he hopes to become an inspirational speaker and share his story with a broader audience.

“I think 2016 is going to be a year of a lot of successes, a lot of gains, a lot of opportunities, and I’m ready,” he said. “I’m so ready for this next step. I’m ready for this next challenge.”

Glover said he is grateful for GEM’s steering committee, mentors and mentees, as well as the city of Kent, the mayor’s office, Kent Parks Department and the Kent Community Center, where GEM has its weekly meetings.

“For me to have such an honor like being the Person the Year is a humbling experience, but I just want people to know this is not about me at all,” he said. “I accept this honor but this is for us. This is a community effort.”

Glover lives in Kent with his wife, Angie, and daughter Khaleeah, 7. He has a 10-year-old daughter, Keira Jones, who lives in Mississippi.

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