Mentor2Youth holds fundraiser

Members of the men’s basketball team shoot around at halftime of the fundraiser game in the Rec/IM, which raised money for local elementary and middle school students.

The organization Mentor2Youth held a basketball fundraiser Saturday afternoon at the Eastern Michigan University Rec/IM to raise money for local elementary and middle school students, for whom the organization provides tutoring and mentoring opportunities.

The key organizer for the program was the soon-to-be-graduating center on the EMU men’s basketball team, Matt Balkema. He organized the fundraiser as part of a requirement for his capstone communications course.

About 50 people attended the fundraiser, which was held from 12-2 p.m.

“I thought it was a good turnout,” Balkema said. “It exceeded my expectations, that’s for sure.”

Also in attendance were Eagle team members J.R. Sims, Daylen Harrison and Derek Thompson.

Balkema said he came up with the idea originally and presented it to his supervisor Emmanuel Jones, who is the founder and executive director of Mentor2Youth. Jones is an alumnus of EMU and decided to create the organization in 2011.

“I was hoping to see more EMU students, but overall I was happy with the turnout,” Jones said.

Jones’s mother, Wilma Gold-Jones, explained her take on Jones’ decision to start Mentor2Youth. Gold-Jones also serves on the organization’s board of directors as well as heading its funding and development endeavors and community relations.

“One of the things Emmanuel told us about a year and a half ago is, ‘Mom and Dad, I know what business I want to go into,’” Gold-Jones said. “His undergraduate degree from EMU is in business entrepreneurship. He said, ‘I want to start a teaching and learning center that mentors and tutors youth.’”

Gold-Jones said she was pleased with the turnout, because the previous day Jones had been worried about how many would come.

“I’m glad to see that parents turnout for their kids,” she said. “We’ve had [a] volunteer’s family drive from West Bloomfield, so I’m happy to see all the people who have come out to support Mentor2Youth.”

The basketball team was not the only one providing a presence at the fundraiser. EMU’s wrestling squad also sent one of its own who actually had some playing time on Saturday.

Khodor Hoballah came to the fundraiser originally as part of a class assignment, but quickly got involved.

“I think it’s awesome just to see the people caring about the youth and reaching out, trying to make
a difference,” Hoballah said. “It’s really cool.”

Paige Bardwell is a junior at EMU and has been mentoring and tutoring since Mentor2Youth was founded. She also serves on its board of directors and is its representative on campus. She said things weren’t always easy for the group at Eastern.

“In the beginning, we weren’t known on campus,” Bardwell said. “So we couldn’t get into things like Fajita Fest … We couldn’t do that because we weren’t a part of Eastern.”

Now the group resides in the Volunteer Incorporating Service Into Our Neighborhoods office on the third floor of the Student Center.

Mentor2Youth also works with EMU’s chapter of Upward Bound, which is an organization whose goal, like Mentor2Youth, is to tutor and mentor young students and help motivate them to do the right thing at the high school level.

Balkema said he would like to see this fundraiser continue and maybe be moved from the Rec/IM to the Convocation Center.

“Hopefully we can make this an annual thing,” Balkema said.

Jones said there are plenty of ways for EMU students to get involved in Mentor2Youth. The organization is looking for mentors who would commit a full school year to the program, as well as tutors who would only need to give a semester of their time.

In addition, there are other administrative and behind-the-scenes jobs available. This would give students an opportunity to gain valuable experience before going out into the real world.

“I think especially for people who are looking to get some career experience, which is definitely needed nowadays, this is the way to go,” Jones said.

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