When J. Jeraude Zigler was 6 years old, he lost his father to brain cancer, but a majority of his personal growth and evolution came as a result of having other men in his life who served as an example of what it meant to be a man for his family, community and society.
However, it wasn't until he was 16 when his high school principal, who was also his godfather, came into his life to be a mentor and teach him some of the most valuable lessons about life.
“He welcomed me into his life as a student and a mentee and into his family,” Zigler said. “Because of the time and energy, he poured into me to help me grow and develop into the man that I am, I understand how important it is to not only be present, but also involved."
His transparency allowed Zigler the opportunity to see and understand the successes and failures of a man as a professional, husband, father, leader and mentor.
Zigler is a mentor in the Sigma Beta Club of Charlotte which is sponsored by Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
The Sigma Beta Clubs of Phi Beta Sigma offer unique opportunities to exemplify wholesome values, leadership skills, educational enhancement, business training and development and social and cultural awareness to young men at a most critical stage in their personal growth.
Being a product of what he calls "the struggle," Zigler said it taught many things about life, but not how to deal with the emotional baggage that came with those situations. As a result, he battled with depression, low self-esteem, anger and multiple suicide attempts.
“As I continued to grow and overcome these obstacles, I became more in tune with who I was as an individual and realized that I wasn't alone,” he said. “With that understanding came an unapologetic ability to be transparent about the things I'd overcome.”
Serving as a mentor with the Sigma Beta Club, he not only develops relationships with the young men but also the parents. He says building a solid foundation with the entire family unit is key to the child’s success.
“As a mentor, it's important that we know and have an understanding of the behavior and demeanor of the ones we serve,” Zigler said.
A mentor-mentee relationship doesn’t have to be complex. For Zigler, a mentor is someone who is willing to be open and transparent with others about their life's experiences, whether it is personal, educational, professional or social with those are or will face some of the same obstacles and challenges.
“There are many words that could describe a good mentor,” Zigler said. “However, the key characteristics of a good mentor would be someone who is honest, operates with integrity, sincere, transparent, respectful, understanding and aware of who they are and the value that they possess.”
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.
Zigler believes that one of the greatest life lessons is experience, and that personal experiences are the things that help to build character, individuality and growth. Being able and willing to share those experiences helps to prepare those who will come after us, and those on the journey with us, and give them options to work through those same or similar issues.
“The ultimate goal is growth,” Zigler said.
“I want to see each person that's impacted by my role as a mentor grow to be better than I could ever be and greater than they ever imagined.”
The opportunity to be a mentor is one that he doesn’t take for granted and with each opportunity he’s given to serve as a mentor, he learns more about himself and how he navigates within his own life.
“It continues to keep me accountable and pushes me to be the best version of myself that I can be so that I can truly lead by example,” Zigler said. “I give to them all of the tools and resources necessary to be great men and great leaders.”
Although his relationship is different with each of the young men, the one thing that is the same across the board is his desire to see each of them be the bold, confident, respectful and effective leader in their family, in their schools, and in their communities, that they are destined to be.
“I pour into my mentees everything I needed prior to meeting my godfather coming into my life because I remember the questions and uncertainties that I had trying to figure things out on my own,” Zigler said.
One of the greatest benefits he’s seen in his mentees has been their level of confidence from the time they enter the program until they leave.
“We teach them how to be accountable to their words and their actions, how to be effective leaders and mentors, and how to boldly stand in who they are and what they represent.”
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 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 organization who can provide mentor and mentee opportunities.
If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.
© 2019 Cox Media Group.