Mentorship program points North Park’s young men to a successful path – NBC 6 South Florida

Every Wednesday, young men ages 16-24 from Miami’s North Park community gather to learn more about life.

“People skills, conversation skills, respect, things like that,” Caleb Washington said. “I carry myself just like a young man.”

Washington, 20, is one of a dozen young men participating in the North Park Suns Men’s Mentorship Program.

The aim is to help them acquire skills to find a job. It’s a program that Washington says helped keep him on the wrong track.

“I used to do the wrong things,” he said. “I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to do the right things, deep down. I was just skipping school, not going to school.

The program was created by Urban Strategies, a nonprofit that connects families to the resources they need.

Benjamin Fortson and Rachel Janvier, both in their twenties, helped come up with the idea after a personal incident with gun violence.

“I don’t want anyone to feel this pain or go through what I had to go through,” Janvier said.

Last year, Janvier’s 23-year-old brother was shot dead.

“He was just sitting on the porch with his friend,” she said.

Although he survived, Janvier and Fortson say the shooting motivated them to launch the program, which began in February.

“We knew it would be hard to get to know these kids and see everything we wanted to see,” Fortson said.

Before classes started, volunteers scoured the neighborhoods of North Park, recruiting young men to join the program.

“We try to save a life every Wednesday,” said Earnest Hardy, who runs the weekly classes.

Sessions cover a wide range of topics, from financial literacy to culinary arts to entrepreneurship.

Hardy says the biggest lesson he teaches is sharing his own life experience.

“I’m paralyzed from chest to toe,” he said.

Hardy is now in a wheelchair after being shot five times in 2009.

“Twice in my leg, my elbow was shot, twice in the back of my shoulder,” he said. “I hope this will open their eyes and wake some of them up because you don’t want to end up like this.”

So far, the classes seem to be working, at least for Washington, who has just started a new job transporting patients to a local hospital.

He says his ultimate dream is to become a firefighter.

“I love helping people,” he said. “I have a passion for it.”

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