Michael Richey joined the 3-Star Foundation to play a game, but when he left, he said, “I knew what it meant to be a man.”
Tempted with the chance to be on a basketball team, Richey spent his sophomore through senior years of high school playing the game. The same men who taught him how to shoot a basket would guide him in leadership, responsibility and academics.
The 3-Star Foundation gave Richey, now 21, and other teenagers the chance to become adults who could give back to their communities. They are just some of the mentors who, through simple conversation, can guide a Harrisburg teenager into a successful future.
About one out of every three children will reach adulthood without ever having a mentor, according to a study by The National Mentoring Partnership, which celebrates National Mentoring Month in January. Without adult role models, many of those children will never go to college, volunteer in their communities or know the pleasure of cooperating with others to finish a project.
For Richey, the mentors at 3-Star Foundation saved him from a life on the streets.
“Growing up, my dad was in and out of my life,” said Richey. “They gave me someone who was stable and always there for me. They taught me family values when no one else was really showing me what that meant.”
After graduating from the program and venturing out on his own, Richey nearly lost his way. He said that he struggled to keep a job and started to drift from his responsibilities at home. When his son, Michael Jr., was born, Richey knew that he could do better.
He reconnected with his mentors at 3-Star and soon found himself welcomed back into the program—this time as a living example to other teenagers of how someone can change his life.
“They helped me see what it meant to be responsible for my actions and to be accountable,” Richey said. “They showed me how to take care of my son in the way they take care of me.”
Now a coach at 3-Star Foundation, Richey tries to have the same impact on other teenagers who come through the program.
“I’m basically trying to give them the same mentoring lessons that I learned,” he said. “I want to be someone who is there for them, and they don’t have to fear being judged or getting in trouble.”
Gerald Jarmon, president of 3-Star Foundation, said the organization has spent the past nine years focusing on a holistic approach of developing good character in the kids who participate.
“The staff is what sets the tone and provides excellent leadership for our participants,” Jarmon said. “They are from different walks of life. Some are out of college, out of high school. Some are teachers; some have regular jobs. But collectively, with one goal in mind, that’s what makes us successful.”
The program is well known in city schools, where organizers hold weekly morning huddles to meet with students and encourage them spiritually and academically, Jarmon said.
The coaches are the biggest mentors for each kid. Each Monday night is broken up into time spent on the court and time spent in a mentoring session. About three teams of seven to nine students gather for 15 minutes to discuss a particular topic, whether it’s leadership, stereotypes or family life. The teams then break off into smaller groups and talk more.
“The consistency in these adults is a great example for the kids,” Jarmon said. “It touches my heart and means a lot to me.”
For others in the community, mentors provide a chance to grow professionally in ways that might not otherwise be possible.
That’s the goal of Harrisburg University of Science and Technology through its experienced learning program.
Kim Sprout, manager of experiential programs and career services, said the school runs two mentorship programs. The first is for incoming freshmen, who will spend their first year paired with upperclassmen of the same major. The mentor and mentee will meet during freshman orientation and interact throughout the year during social activities and in seminar classes.
When students enter their second year, they have the option to sign up for a community mentor who can guide them through the rest of college.
While that program has been available for a few years, there is currently only one student and one mentee who participate.
“A lot of students don’t want to have things added to their plate, so it’s tough to convince them that they should regularly meet with a mentor,” Sprout said. “What they miss out on by passing that up is the chance to learn from someone who has either worked in their field of study or who can give them guidance on areas of business they never thought of.”
Junior Joseph Royall, an interactive media design student, has spent the last year following Tom Paese, section manager for government relations with Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, a Pittsburgh-based law firm with an office in downtown Harrisburg.Even though Royall doesn’t have any plans to become an attorney or lobbyist, he’s learned the basics of good business practices.
“I generally ask how I should act in a professional environment and how I can manage my finances once I do have a career and steady income,” Royall said. “I think we have a good relationship, and I appreciate his time, but it also holds for me the chance to build connections.”
Paese, who sits on the board at the university, has taken Royall to different functions, including a Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce social, where Royall had the chance to see Paese interact with elected officials and area professionals.
“He might never go into this field, but I try to show him that there are good business practices that cover a variety of professions,” Paese said. “We talk about the right way to dress or how to be polite and professional. I teach him the courtesy of quickly responding to phone calls and emails. These are simple things, but things I think he’s really taking to heart.”
Royall is eating up the advice while Paese nears his retirement, set to begin this year.
“The more I get to know other individuals in a professional environment, the better opportunities I’ll find for myself,” Royall said. “I think I’ve learned a lot about maintaining positive relationships and being willing to help other people.”
The 3-Star Foundation can be found at www.3starfoundation.org. To learn more about National Mentoring Month, visit www.nationalmentoringmonth.org.