White House Honors New Yorker as 'Champion of Change'

Monday, January 16, 2012

Stephen Powell, executive director of New York-based Mentoring USA, was honored as one of eight "Champions of Change" in a ceremony at the White House Thursday for following in the footsteps of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

His passion is finding the perfect mentor for each child in need, a project that starts, he said, with changing the collective mindset about the kids who come to his organization for help.

"Children to me are not 'at risk,' they're champions on the cusp," he said in an interview.

Powell, 39, started out as one of those kids. A native of Newark, he lost his father at the age of 5. When he was 14, he realized he was looking for male leadership in his own life, which he eventually found in his high school track and field coaches. He also had peer mentors — older fellow athletes from Clifford J. Scott high in East Orange who went to college, came back, and shared their stories. Powell said for fatherless young black and Latino men, mentoring can be a fork in the road that sets them on a positive path.

"When I connect with single mothers around the U.S., it really reaches my heart because I understand their plight," Powell said.

Mentoring USA serves about 1,000 youth in 12 U.S. cities with a focus on healthy lifestyles, self-esteem, diversity and tolerance, anti-bullying, and financial and media literacy. Boys and girls ages seven to 21 participate in the programs, but Powell said young black and Latino men are the demographic in the greatest need.

Recruiting mentors can be a challenge, but Powell said engaging with potential candidates like a friend instead of like a businessman tends to work.

"It shouldn't really be a sales pitch to become a mentor," he said. "It should be a comfortable reminder that you should be committed to doing this since somebody did it for you."


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Comments [3]

Joan Griffith Lee from Columbia University

Stephen, I am not surprise to learn of this accomplishment. I knew you were headed for great things the first day I met you. Congratulations and keep up the great work! I am sure you make your Dad proud!

Jan. 24 2012 11:45 AM
Darcell Johnson from New Jersey

Shout Out to Steve, you go Big Man that what it's all about helping our young people men and women know that they are somebody and that they are our future for tomorrow. Also that they can achieve and be what ever they want to be with the right resources availabe to them. You have a Big Heart filled with love because you care about our youth. I am very glad that you are my daughter's Danielle Worth Mentor as she moves forward in starting her own Non-Profit Organization "Up Rising Stars Inc" with her myself and my youngest daughter. Congratulations Steve and much continued success.

Ms Darcell Johnson (Mom)

Jan. 17 2012 12:15 PM
Donna Clay from Philadelphia

I am very proud of your accomplishments. We need more male role models like you every where and men in general to step up to the plate. Please Give someone your time.

Jan. 17 2012 10:47 AM

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