Actor and comedian Tommy Ford is helping a Raleigh church launch a new mentoring program.
Ford, best known for his role on the hit television series “Martin,” will be at a celebration at Greater Love Church on Saturday, Aug. 27. The event will kick off THINK, an initiative of the church’s nonprofit arm, Love in Action.
THINK replaces the church’s monthly youth mentoring programs, Boys to Men and Finding the Princess Within. The new bimonthly program will embrace young men and women ages 12-25 with age-appropriate focus on all facets of school, work, play and community.
“The Bible emphatically declares as a man thinks in his heart, so is he,” said the Rev. Harvey Spencer Sr., who founded Greater Love Church with his wife, Victoria, in 2008. “We have to get them thinking with their intellect, not their emotions.
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“If we can change the way young people think, we can change their future and, ultimately, their destiny.”
It’s what mentoring programs should do: connect youth – and young adults, too – to successful people, especially those who know how to wade murky waters in shoes of odds and obstacles, who provide safety nets of exposure and introduce opportunities that mold and guide paths of education, career and citizenship.
They do it, in part, by creating expectations, said Ford, 51, who founded the You’ve Gotta Job Youth Empowerment Program.
“My life changed when my mom remarried and I had a dad,” he said. “It was about more than having someone in the home. I bought into his philosophy, too. I was OK with being average, but his philosophy was, ‘You are not average. You are not ordinary. You are extraordinary. Because you are extraordinary, we need extraordinary behavior and choices and results.’
“I saw my life change tremendously,” Ford said. “That’s why youth mentoring is so important to me, because someone stepped into my life to help change me, encourage me and influence me.
“It’s important that I, in turn, do the same thing.”
In addition to intellectual empowerment, THINK’s holistic approach also addresses bullying, peer pressure and self-esteem; provides tutoring; and tackles issues around employment and unemployment.
“It’s helped me out a lot because it is a group that leads you in the right direction,” said Denzel Coley, 16, a junior at Millbrook High School who joined Boys to Men when it started.
“We can talk about all the negative things and the positive things going on in our lives, and there are people we can talk to who can help us through every situation, any type of situation we go through.
“They help us think of ways to handle those situations in the most positive way to get positive results. Instead of going off of emotion, think,” Coley added. “It’s something everybody needs because no one can handle every situation by themselves.
“It’s good to have somebody to talk to. It builds relationships. It helps you stay out of trouble and find success.”
Coley’s mom, Beverly, is grateful.
“It came at a crucial time in our lives,” she said of the Boys to Men mentoring program. “We were going through displacement, and I wanted a positive entity in our lives as I raised a young male of color, and instilling in him good morals and principles.
“I wanted to put as many positive role models – examples of young men serving God and going in a positive direction – as possible in his life,” Beverly Coley said. “We have to get behind positive role models in the community so our kids can have a more productive future – a better chance, at least.”
Ford agrees, pointing to the influence of entertainers – from actors to musicians to athletes – on how young people perceive themselves and the world around them.
“It’s important that we give young people positive formats to embrace, and that we use our celebrity to influence them positively, healthily and spiritually – mind, body and soul,” Ford said.
If you go
Greater Love Church will launch its new THINK mentoring program with a celebration from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, at 2421 Timber Drive, Raleigh. A town hall session will be from noon to 1:30 p.m.