New mentorship program pairs mentors with young black men in Knoxville

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (WVLT) – Building pride along with education and life skills is how a new mentorship program hopes to inspire young black men in the Knoxville area.

YOVEMENT, that’s what businessman and founder Robert Williams said: matching young people with others who are like them.

“YOVEMENT is an acronym for ‘Youth Get Rewarding and Valuable Mentorship, Encouraging New Thinking,” Williams said.

Williams opened Kutting Kings a year ago on the Cumberland Avenue Strip, proud to have a black-owned hair salon near the University of Tennessee campus.

He felt inspired to help prevent future violence for other young men like the one he saw in the Lonsdale community.

“Not proud, but I am one of the first generation of thugs to come to Knoxville. And I was wise enough to, once I got to a certain age, walk away from it, ”he said.

The new organization plans to match 15 mentors with mentees by the end of January for a pilot program that brings various skills and positive values. He has the support of the community, including the University of Tennessee.

UT Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Engagement Tyvi Small said several mentors will be students.

“We have a lot of students who come from all over and want to give back. Especially young men of color, ”Small said.

He said he was inspired to help because of Williams’ passion for helping others.

“So my concept was to bring good to the community,” Williams said. “And later I developed the idea of ​​implementing things like African culture.”

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