DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- A small but committed crowd gathered outside aging storefronts along North Mangum Street on a sultry Saturday in Durham, as witnesses to the dawn of a game-changing opportunity.
Derek Rhodes proudly told ABC11 his background as a successful man born and raised in the Bull City fueled his development of the Durham Success Summit's new Workforce Development Center.
"We're looking for ambitious young men," he said. "You have no GPA requirements. We do not require you to be enrolled in a two-year or four-year institution. We just ask for a willingness to collaborate, to show up weekly, and to trust us over the 12 weeks that you'll engage with success."
One flight upstairs covered by a red carpet, we toured a suite of rooms with sunlight streaming through tall windows on dozens of inspirational books, posters, and works of art.
"Our training center," Rhodes said, "which is where we held our weekly workshops, daily opportunities to connect students with coaches. And then we also have a scholar lounge. And so that is a free-flowing co-working space where young men can come in and do homework, have access to Internet, to laptops, computers, iPads, and other resources."
Those young men between the ages of 16 to 24 can get advice and mentorship from successful positive people close to their age, like Kobe Williams. He wore a maroon Elon University t-shirt as he shared his role at the center.
"My goal is to really create an environment to think deeply, be on the forefront of knowledge, and if you want to be a part of that, come here and ask me things. Talk to me," Williams said. "The Success Summit has been a great avenue to really help bring people together that are like-minded, that are ambitious, curious, want to create prosperity in our world, want to do a lot for Durham, and just want to do a whole bunch of new great things. I love it, and I love the environment."
It's happening across the street from a partially demolished neighborhood store, a vivid sign of Durham's gentrification. The people behind the program want to make sure young Black men are not left out.
"It was really important to me that we were adjacent to downtown and in a community that has roots in black Wall Street and has roots in service and community and development," said Rhodes. "So we're excited. We partnered with Rivals Barbershop, a longstanding barbershop here in the community so that our young men will have the chance to get cleaned up before a job interview well before the first day of school. And so it's been really, really great to be rooted in the heart of so much transformation."
Neighbors like Nekia Sowell are rooting for the center's success.
"Around here lately, we've had so much going on. This program is gonna bring young men up, bring them together," she said. "Form some type of bond, unity, instead of just being against each other. So this is truly, truly a blessing."
Rhodes wants to hear from more young men who are interested and willing to accept the assistance he's offering.