CLEVELAND — Northeast Ohio has beautiful parks, loaded with lessons about nature. The problem is that many inner-city youth never get to see them. Now there’s a program for young boys to visit and walk through the park while learning about life and the environment with male mentors.
The 100 Black Men of Greater Cleveland have made mentoring their mission, giving guidance and encouragement to young boys. Their motto is, ”Real men giving real-time.”
Cleveland Chief Magistrate Gregory Clifford is a member of the 100 and shares why mentoring is vital to the growth of our youth.
"It takes a village to raise a child, and we just try to do our part to help the youth in our community,” Clifford said. “Unfortunately we can't get to nearly as many as we would like to impact. That's our biggest problem because the need is so great."
Clifford has been working with these young people for a long time, and he said they need positive role models.
“They need guidance and support for doing the right thing,” he said.
One way he is providing that guidance and support is the Walk A Mile With a Child program. It's Clifford's brainchild and came as a result of the pandemic and not being able to mentor students at school.
“So I thought, well, let's do an outdoors program,” he said. “That way we can have our social distancing, we wear our masks, and we can get together and we can still engage them."
It was not only a good idea because of the pandemic, but also because it was a new experience for some of the kids in the program.
“Some of these kids had no idea about some of the parks around our Greater Cleveland community,” he said. “They don't have a chance to see wild animals and to see the different plants and to breathe fresh air.”
Members of the 100 meet with boys ages 8 to 17 at various parks where they learn about the environment and self-improvement, all while walking. Parents are welcome too.
"They can be with their child and still watch us do the mentoring,” Clifford said. “And it's important that parents know what we do when we mentor, because they can continue at home.”
Some of the kids in the program have never even seen Lake Erie, a glaring fact that fuels Clifford to continue.
"it is so rewarding to be able to give back,” he sad. “So if I can offer other people exposures that they haven't had in their lives, it helps them, and I know it.”
You can learn more about this program and other programs from the 100 Black Men of Greater Cleveland here.
This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.