Youth mentorship program recognizes graduates on Father's Day: 'Each one, teach one'

Michael Perchick Image
Monday, June 17, 2024
Youth mentorship program recognizes graduates on Father's Day
Since beginning in 1989, more than 500 people have graduated from the program.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Inside the Phoenix Event Center, proud family and community members watched as four initiates walked towards the front of the room to graduate from the Rites of Passage program.

"I feel like if I didn't come across this program, then I don't know where I would be right now," said 13-year-old Malachi Anderson, one of the teenagers recognized on Sunday.

Rites of Passage is run by Durham Business & Professional Chain Inc., comprised of a group of community leaders, mentors and volunteers who work with youth.

"I've learned more (about) respect, leadership, what to do and what not to do in situations," said Anderson.

"They exposed the young men to leaders in the community. I have noticed that he has greater confidence. He applies himself a little bit more in school. And they have wonderful camping opportunities where they actually get to put into habit those skills learned by becoming a young man. I just think it's just a great program," said Lawanda Anderson, Malachi's mother.

The program is focused on helping develop leadership skills and positive life attributes while stressing the importance of violence intervention.

"If you are being led and self-determined, you won't get involved with violence," said program administrator Dr. Warren L. Herndon.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, despite overall gun deaths and injuries falling for the second straight year in 2023, gun deaths and injuries amongst 12-17 year-olds increased for the fifth consecutive year.

It's a problem that has been felt in Durham. As of June 1st, Durham Police said of the more than 100 people shot so far this year, more than 1/3 are younger than 21 years old.

"What young people need is a pattern because that's how we all grow. We look at the pattern of our fathers, our family, our neighbors, our community, the things that we encounter during our lifetime, and it is reflected in the way that we look at the world," said Larry Hester, who serves as Chairman of the Board.

ALSO SEE: NC Fatherhood Conference aims to empower dads ahead of Father's Day

Geared towards African Americans aged 13-17, the free program also highlights the importance of local history, emphasizing lessons from Black Wall Street.

"We're transferring those values in today's time in order for these young men to start out being young leaders," said Herndon.

Since beginning in 1989, more than 500 people have graduated from the program, with some alums in attendance for Sunday's ceremony.

"What's good for these young people is good for our community. What's good for the community is good for our country," said William "Kojo" Turner, who serves as director.

Mentors further stressed the importance of education, particularly completing high school and determining future plans.

On Thursday, June 20, Herndon, who is the Founder and President of Social Justice Ministries and was named by Governor Roy Cooper to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission last year as a member-at-large, will participate in the Triangle Leadership Institute Summer University Tour in partnership with NC Central.

The program, which is open to students from Durham, Granville, Halifax, Johnston, Orange, Person, Vance, and Wake Counties, is aimed at assisting students with choosing their careers, completing college applications, test-taking skills, resume writing, financial aid, and scholarships.

"Each one teaches one," said Herndon.