ADA — Jaleel King had a chance to speak to Ohio Northern University college students Friday, asking what each day was like.
The conversation evolved around college life and sports. As simple as it was, it was the beginning of a friendship with college students who will become his mentors.
“This is a good experience. I like to see what it’s like. I want to go to college,” said King, an eighth grader at West Middle School in Lima.
One of the university students participating was Summer Miller, an early childhood education sophomore who happened to be a 2013 graduate of Lima Senior. She sees the program as an initial step in getting her feet wet in a field she wants to spend the rest of her life.
“I really look forward to working with inner city schools. I went to them. I think these students need really good mentors. A lot of them don’t really have good home lives,” Miller said. “Being a teacher is more than being a teacher. It will be being a counselor to some, a role model to some.”
The event Friday is part of the No Way Out Initiative formed last year to help mentor and tutor urban children. Community leaders teamed up with Lima Police to help at-risk children in hopes they can lead product lives and perhaps even return to Lima as leaders helping children.
Unity Elementary School, which sits in the heart of Lima’s black community, was chosen as the first school to work with students and their families. Unity students, along with students from West, participated Friday.
The leader of the initiative, Phil Morton, who also is the local chairman of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, said Friday’s program is the latest effort to team children up with mentors to help them walk down a path to success.
“They actually get the college experience of being able to go to different classrooms,” Morton said.
About 25 students participated Friday from ages 10 to 15.
Morton also stressed this initiative began well before several high-profile events around the country involving police officers killing black men led to protests across the country, including in Lima. He said Lima Police have been on board with the program and an active participant working with urban children outside a law enforcement setting before the events occurred.
“I hope each and every one of you kids want to get involved in our community. You’re our future leaders,” Morton said to the school children.
ONU Education Professor Adrienne Goss is overseeing the mentoring program that will have education students meeting with Lima School children on Saturdays for 10 to 12 weeks. She said it gives students, as well as police, a chance to form relationships with children in a positive setting.
“It, hopefully, will develop in a way that they are big brothers and big sisters to the students to help encourage them to improve socially and academically,” Goss said.
Lima Police Maj. Chip Protsman said events such as the mentoring program Friday is something that may not capture a lot of headlines but it’s something Lima Police believe strongly in. It gives police a chance to get to know children away from a crime scene.
Protsman told the children they could stop and talk to police at any time about anything — even sports.
“We want you to know if there is something going on. We’re here for you,” Protsman said.
Goss said police involvement can help improve community relations with police.
“It’s important that we bridge the gap that exists in our community between law enforcement, educational professionals and students,” Goss said.