SOLANO COUNTY, Calif. — Being a kid isn’t easy. When you combine the coronavirus pandemic and the racial reckoning of 2020, navigating adolescence is tough.
But for kids in Solano County, there’s help with from the Leaders of Men Inc.
"When you come to Leaders of Men, the first thing we discuss is respect,” Anthony McDonald, founder of Leaders of Men, said.
Leaders of Men is a mentor program for children between the age of 14 and 18 years old. McDonald added respect is at the core of becoming everything you want to be in life and that life lesson is the foundation of his group. The program’s website says it emphasizes "instilling leadership development that teaches young men what’s needed to manage themselves, their thoughts, emotions, attitudes and actions.
"Some of these youngsters don’t know who they are now or who they want to be because they never left their block," McDonald said. "They never left their bubble so we have to get them out of there."
In the program, it's the goal of a mentor to make a difference in a child's life by helping them realize that they can make their dreams come true and putting them into contact with individuals who have careers in spaces that the kids aspire.
For example, one participant needed help figuring out what he wanted to be when he grows up. He liked planes and liked the idea of flying. McDonald was able to connect the participant to a pilot.
"If you would have seen him smile," McDonald said. "That's what it is. That’s what it’s all about."
Growing up poor, McDonald is able to relate to the children in his program. He said he lived in shelters from Oakland to San Diego and had to go to soup kitchens just to get something to eat. Like so many kids in that situation, McDonald said there’s little time to dream or think big because you’re just trying to survive.
"All of that time, I never had time to dream about what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be, what I wanted to become or what gifts that I have," McDonald said.
That's why he's giving back to his community, lending a guiding hand during someone's formidable years.
"It's okay to ask for help. It's okay, even the strongest people ask for help," McDonald said. “If you're being a leader in your household, that will boil over into the streets."
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