NORTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The first and third Saturdays of the month, Frederick Whiten volunteers at the Leadership Academy held at Vaux Big Picture High School in North Philadelphia.
"This is a family program," said Whiten. "We go from eight to 18."
Through the academy program, lessons are taught and relationships formed.
"It's a combination of mentoring through education," said Whiten.
Kids are taught content as well as life skills by many mentors.
The event is hosted by 100 Black Men of Philadelphia, Inc., an international organization Whiten helped to revive in the city about 12 years ago.
"We started talking about the plight of young Black men," explained Whiten. "The mission of the organization is: 'What they see is what they'll be!' That's our motto."
Currently, there are about 35 mentors united to help shape tomorrow's leaders. Whiten says the mentors come from "different lanes in life." There are teachers, engineers and pre-med students offering their expertise to the youth in attendance.
"And we want them to know that they can do it," he said.
Whiten is leading by example.
"My commitment to young people has been consistent since I started teaching in 1975," he said.
Whiten says he represents a father or a grandfather to these kids at the academy program. He says trust is key to developing successful mentor/mentee relationships.
"Then these young people open up and they hear what we have to say," he explained.
And their message seems to be making a difference.
"Computer technology is something I'm probably going to pursue in the future," said Kareem Amaro, now a senior at Vaux Big Picture High School. He says he started attending the Leadership Academy when he was a freshman.
Whiten also advises parents at the accompanying Parent Academy.
"We try to show them how to raise these young Black men. We teach from a book called ''Raising Black Boys'," he said.
He says they work on skills, such as communication, to help "strengthen the family."
"I attend the parent group, because it allows me to speak with women who may or may not be having the same issues I'm going through," explained Melanee Barnard from Northeast Philadelphia. "It's strength in the village."
Barnard says it's been a positive experience for her son, Asher Coles, too. He concurrently attends the Leadership Academy.
"You should never be afraid to be who you really want to be in the real world," said Coles, a 7th grade student at C.C.A. Baldi Middle School.
Whiten says when he does this work, he can see the growth in the young men they are mentoring.
"It's just very, very rewarding," he says.
For more information:
100 Black Men of Philadelphia, Inc.
Saturday Leadership Academy
Lifelong educator helping both youth and their parents through weekend programs
Through the Leadership Academy program, lessons are taught and relationships formed.
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