Kansas was recently ranked one of the top states in the country for number of people who do volunteer work. All this week, the KMUW News team is looking at some local volunteers who are making a difference here in Wichita.
For nearly a decade, African-American men have been giving their time, talent and money to support a youth mentoring organization in Wichita. The volunteers are part of the nonprofit Real Men, Real Heroes, which works with youth from 3rd grade to high school.
KMUW’s Carla Eckels spoke with the group’s president, Sherdeill Breathett, and participants during one of the group's Monday night mentoring sessions.
"We are so excited to say this is our ninth year, and we’re going into our tenth year. Within our ninth year, 100 percent of our kids graduate from high school, and 100 percent go on to college, and that’s because we get involved. We let them know that we care. We expose them to different cultural events. We have investors. They know what we are doing, and they understand the value of it.
My day job as an economic developer is about raising up leaders. We export a good portion of our human capital. The kids get an education, but they leave here and go to another city after we’ve trained them and raised them up. We want them to stay here and continue to pour into our community and to help make our community viable.
We tell guys that are interested in being part of our program, 'If you are not really serious about this, this may not be a good fit for you,' because when we give these kids our word that we are going to do something, we stick with our word, and that means so much to them.
They come back each week with smiling faces. I mean, we’ve had some kids that have seemed aloof, distant, low self-esteem, and we’ve seen the lights in their eyes spark and change and turn into doing well in school. We get their progress reports, we monitor them, we are raising leaders. That’s what we are doing. Our mission is male role models empowering youth to help build strong communities, one youth at a time."
"I like how [mentors] stay with you. They don’t give up on you, and when you are in trouble, they will always be there for you. They can come to your school and work with you. I like how we study and how we get to do various activities. We get to learn more things."
"I do this because many of our boys in the community do not have dads. We can’t be a dad to every kid, but for those who are part of our organization, we do our best to show the love of a community member, a father, a friend, just try to help them understand the importance of having a mentor in their lives."
"I’m in the 5th grade this year. This program is helping me to get good grades, helping me to keep my mind ahead of stuff, making sure to stay in the present, not the past. Even if you have bad things going on in your life, you still have to stay present, not the past."
"I’m just a happy mentor here with these Future Heroes. One of the things that I’ve been blessed to bring to the program is STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. This is my second year full-time, so three years in total, but this is my second year. You go through a whole year audition process, and once you go through that process, you’re officially in. And they’re just, they’re my everything, like, I love these kids. They’re awesome. They always pick you up when you are having a rough day. You come from work and you really just got to let it go because it’s all about them."
Carla Eckels is assistant news director and the host of Soulsations. Follow her on Twitter @Eckels.
To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.