In 1997, a letter from the Ku Klux Klan that was left on a family’s porch was intended to defeat the family. A 16-year-old young man named Lee Williams saw how the words that were written would not defeat his mother’s spirit. Now, over 20 years later, Williams uses his mother’s values to mentor the next generation.
“I saw a fearless woman who would not back down because of her core belief in equality and the rights for minorities, specifically African American children,” Williams said.
Williams’ mother has been the president of the Moore County NAACP for more than 20 years, so he believes that mentoring is part of his natural journey.
When he was growing up, his mother and grandmother would take in as many as 10 children into their single-family home with only one full bathroom.
“We could not afford it, but my mother knew that their parents were unable to provide for them at the time,” he said. “She stood in to bridge that gap as the mother or mentor figure in their life until their mothers were able to take care of them.”
Williams believes the same essence of her spirit is in him and has stayed with him.
It wasn’t until he was older that saw the results of his mother’s selflessness and how it changed the path for generations.
“Those same people that lived in my home have grown up to have families and are able to provide for their families,” Williams said. “All it took was my mom and grandmother being a stable person and providing them a safe and stable environment.”
Williams took the knowledge he gained from childhood, along with his business partner Mark Frazier, to create programs that empower others.
Their platform is called the On My Genius Campaign, and their mission is to reduce negative life outcomes for all children by building their self-awareness, self-confidence and self-worth.
On My Genius Campaign programs empower and encourage positive thinking, while providing resources and tools to help navigate young people through life.
“Our programs give (mentees) space to openly look at themselves and express themselves without fear of judgment,” Williams said. “Being aware of self and understanding why you do the things you do help you build a strong social and emotional intellectual foundation.”
A mentor-mentee relationship doesn’t have to be complex. For Williams, a mentor is someone who takes action and lives by example, is open-minded, willing to learn, has personal integrity, love for self and has a positive purpose in their life.
“Mentorship is a lifestyle,” Williams said. “A lot of people are being a mentor by simply using their life as a positive example for others to see."
"Mentorship can be the difference in a culture sustaining or dying."
Mentoring is linked to improved academic, social and economic prospects for youth. When you volunteer to become a mentor, you are not only positively impacting someone's life, you are ultimately helping to strengthen our local community and workforce.
One of the On My Genius Campaign programs helps to provide youth who are reintegrating into their community from detention centers with skills that will empower and encourage them to have a positive impact on their community.
The most important objective of the reentry program is to prevent recidivism and help develop the mentees for their next step into college, career or entrepreneurship.
“I have been able to see firsthand the impact that negative and oppressive environments have on influencing our young people,” Williams said.
"We all have the ability to change the course of someone's life in very simple ways."
He said that he has learned little things are the most important his mentees and that showing authentic care and understanding goes further than any event or gift you can give them.
“Our young people can find their way on their own, they just need support,” Williams said. “Every time I build a relationship with a mentee, I am reminded of the infinite perspectives that life can show us all.”
A valuable resource in Charlotte for the mentoring community is the Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance. The alliance educates mentoring organizations about best practices and mentoring standards, ignites impactful and enduring mentor-mentee relationships and connects Charlotte’s mentoring community.
The Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance is hosting a mentor mingle Taco Tuesday. The event serves as an opportunity for you to network with current mentors, prospective mentors, organizations and allows for you to learn of opportunities to get more involved in the mentoring community.
The Mentor Mingle is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 5, at Live 360 in Northlake Mall, 6801 Northlake Mall Drive, and will be held from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Food will be provided.
The Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance is asking for nominations for deserving individuals or organizations that have made a difference in the lives of Charlotte children and youth through a commitment to mentoring.
To learn about mentoring or meet others interested in mentoring, people can attend a Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance Mentor Mingle and connect with individuals and organizations that can provide mentor and mentee opportunities.
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