The Educated Mentor: Volume 1, Issue 3 (Winter 2020)

Page 1

Winter 2020



Celebrating our

First Year

Message from the Co-Founders | p. 4


OPERATION G.R.A.D, INCORPORATED Moving Beyond Initiatives Operation G.R.A.D, Incorporated is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization whose purpose is to help collegiate African-American males graduate with a college degree. With mentoring as the foundational approach, we challenge and support students as they achieve goals initially set.


Guided by the core values of commitment, community, education, diversity, and integrity , Operation G.R.A.D is dedicated to providing a holistic student-centered experience that prepares students for opportunities during and post college. For questions, or to learn more about our organization, please contact us at









Protect The Legacy. In 2016, our co-founder and CEO began a journey that would soon turn into a transformative experience. His experience in the field of higher education revealed to him that there was an unmet need and he was determined to address it. Four years later, he and co-founder Jamie Enge have expanded their passion [mentoring] into a life changing opportunity for Black males across the country. Like many great non-profit organizations, its success comes from strong and dedicated supporters like YOU! Your contributions thus far have helped us accomplish many milestones, and for that we are grateful. However, this is only the beginning. As Operation G.R.A.D, Inc. continues to affect change in the nation, we are going to need your continuous support. Help advance the mission and vision of the organization by making a recurring monthly donation. Whether $5, $10, or $20 a month, you are setting a wonderful example for others of helping to protect the legacy of Operation G.R.A.D, Inc. If you are already a recurring donor, thank you. If you would like to become a recurring donor visit our website to begin your journey today.

Operation G.R.A.D, Incorporated is classified by the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Any monies donated to the organization is tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. Our Federal Tax ID is 84-4956308. If you have any questions regarding our tax-exempt status, please contact us at


MESSAGE FROM THE CO-FOUNDERS " . . . Operation G.R.A.D would like to provide a different perspective of the year 2020. It forced us to realign our values, set new priorities, and think differently on how to navigate this world, and this year will be the year of implementation and execution!"

Celebrating Our First Year!


Happy New Year! Cheers to another new year of goals, celebrations, achievements, and more! We are excited to enter the new year with all of our supporters. 2020 has been a year of change with tests of faith, patience, and resilience, to say the least. However, through it, you've continued to support us. When 2020 first began, individuals including us at Operation G.R.A.D were excited because this was the year of 20/20 vision and clarity. However, as the months progressed, the pandemic and racial injustices, discouragement, defeat, and uncertainty set in. As we live out one of our core values, commitment, we are courageously advancing ourselves despite unanticipated adversity. As such, we at Operation G.R.A.D would like to provide a different perspective of the year 2020. 2020 forced us to realign our values, set new priorities, and think differently on how to navigate this world, and 2021 will be the year of implementation and execution! For us, amidst living in unprecedented times with countless barriers, we have much to be grateful for and celebrate. We were able to officially register as a nonprofit organization, secure our 501(c)(3) status, gain a tremendous amount of community support, and publish our quarterly publication, to name a few. Additionally, we have a phenomenal Board of Directors who have dedicated their time and expertise to help Operation G.R.A.D, Inc. move forward in its formative stages.


VOLUME 1, ISSUE 3 CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Dr. Darryl Hylton, Jr. CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER Jamie L. Enge JOURNAL EDITOR Dr. Darryl Hylton, Jr. CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Jamal Clark Jamie Enge Noah Harris Jamie Harrison Dr. Darryl Hylton Jahad Martin Kirk Miller Christyan Norman Jeremiah O'Bryant Nomar Proctor Dr. Jeremiah Shipp The Educated Mentor is the official publication of Operation G.R.A.D, Incorporated published four times a year. For any questions or feedback regarding the publication, please contact us at

As we turn the last corner to wrap up our first complete year, we want to say THANK YOU! Thank you for all the love and support that you have provided. Thank you for allowing us to be our authentic selves as we navigate this journey. Thank you for entrusting us to do this work. Many are looking forward to starting anew in 2021. This year has been one, unlike any other. A “new normal” has settled over all of us — life changed as we knew it, and it is guaranteed to change again. We urge you to protect yourselves as we send positive light, love, and care. In Mentorship,

Dr. Darryl Hylton, Jr. Jamie L. Enge

Dr. Darryl Hylton, Jr. & Jamie L. Enge Co-Founders

04 Winter 2020 Edition

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volume 1, issue 3

featured articles

22 24

You Can Because You Are

These Co-Founders can MENTOR, ADVOCATE, and help Black men GRADUATE from College



06 National News

12 The Mentor Spotlight

Get the latest information from the National Office

08 Amplified Students share their experiences leading as Black men on their campuses

Recognizing Trailblazer, Ayodele Harrison

18 Dear Brother, Receive a Word of Encouragement from Jamie Harrison

28 Philanthropy At-A-Glance An overview of our philanthropy from Quarter 2

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The Educated Mentor


National News Founder's Week, Coming Soon! On February 5, 2021, Operation G.R.A.D will celebrate its 1st complete year as an organization. To commemorate this milestone, we will be hosting our very first Founder's Week. Founder's Week is scheduled for February 1-5, 2021. Throughout the week, there will be a variety of events to engage the community and we want YOU to be a part. Events will be held virtually on various platforms that include Zoom and Clubhouse. Be sure to follow us on our social media pages and/or subscribe to our email list (via our website) for specific details of each event.

For more information regarding Founder's Week, feel free to contact us at

Round Up App! Want to make consistent contributions to Operation G.R.A.D without digging too deep in your wallet? Sign up to use Round Up! Round Up is an application that allows you to securely link your credit/debit cards to donate the change from your daily purchases. For example, if your purchase is $5.40, Round Up will round your transaction amount to $6.00 and donate $0.60 cents to Operation G.R.A.D. Are you ready to start making your consistent impact? Get started today by downloading the app on your iOs and/or Android device. For more information visit

06 The Educated Mentor

Co-Founder Jamie wins two Counseling Awards In October 2020, cofounder Jamie Enge was announced as a recipient of the 2020 Outstanding College Counselor of the Year by the Illinois College Counseling Association and the Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling in Illinois.. The mission of the Illinois Counseling Association is to enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession, and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity. Since 1948, the association has been supporting professional counseling in the state of Illinois. Congratulations, Jamie! The Operation G.R.A.D family and community are proud of you and your accomplishments.

Corporate Partnerships Shop with us on Amazon Smile Operation G.R.A.D is registered with Amazon Smile. Now, anyone who shops through Amazon can support Operation G.R.A.D. How? Well, for each eligible purchase made by supporters, Amazon donates 0.5% back to the organization. Simply follow these 3 easy steps to get started: 1. Sign into your Amazon account via 2. Select Operation G.R.A.D, Inc. NFP as your charity. 3. Shop 'til you drop! For more information, visit

Collaborate with Us! Are you looking for opportunities to publish? For our upcoming quarterly journals, we are seeking individuals interested in sharing their knowledge, expertise, and experience with the Operation G.R.A.D community. Submissions for the fourth quarter (Spring 2021) editions will be due February 28, 2021.

Does your passion intersect with the vision of Operation G.R.A.D? Are you looking for a way for your company to support our organization? Are you ready to make a charitable donation? If so, consider becoming a corporate sponsor. With our various sponsorship levels, there are multiple opportunities and ways for your company to support Operation G.R.A.D in the achievement of its goals. Ultimately, as a corporate sponsor, your gift helps continue and sustain the mission of the organization. To begin your journey in becoming a corporate sponsor, visit or website

#FBF: Facebook Birthday Fundraisers Do you have a birthday coming up? Of course you do! And this year we want to be a part of your special day. Operation G.R.A.D is now listed with the major non-profit organizations/charities eligible to receive funds through Facebook Fundraisers. So when your next birthday comes around the corner, consider creating a birthday fundraiser to support Operation G.R.A.D. You can search for us by name or Tax ID: 84-4956308. For more information visit

For more information please contact us at

Winter 2020 Edition

The Educated Mentor


Amplified "Can You Hear Me Now?!"

Leading as a Black Man By: Dr. Darryl Hylton Across the nation on college campuses alike, student leadership positions are some of the most coveted positions and often the highlight of a student’s college career. The benefits for earning these high-ranking positions are very enticing and, in many cases, serve as a platform for networking post-graduation. However, with these positions comes a great deal of responsibility. Between speaking engagements, event planning, and community service (among other duties) coupled with maintaining satisfactory academic standing, these roles can be a true test of time management. But, despite the major commitment required, these student leaders demonstrate the essence of leadership among their peers. Let’s hear from current Student Government Association Presidents and Royal Court Campus Kings as they share what it means to lead as a Black man at their respective college/university.

Jahad Martin

Mr. University of Maryland Eastern Shore Princess Anne, Maryland "As Mister UMES, I am leaving a print that can’t be erased or duplicated. Day in and day out since freshman year, I have been dedicated to making U.M.E.S a better environment for myself, students, faculty, and prospective students. I always thought, “If not me, then who?“ as a means to push myself toward success. Leading at my university means that I am taking a stand to improve the false outlook on my university and any surrounding comments that come with it. As a black man, it means that I am following after my other fellow Black kings before me as I rise to be the greatest and push my other fellow kings to do the same. Each obstacle comes with a different answer key, but as a leader, you have to remember that your not alone, and taking a chance on yourself is what got you here today."

Jeremiah D. O'Bryant

SGA President, Norfolk State University Norfolk, Virginia

"As a senior at Norfolk State University, I have realized that leadership has been a calling of mine since I was born. I fell in love with Norfolk State the first day I attended an open house in Fall 2016. Norfolk State University impacts the community on a large scale. It was a struggle growing up in a single-parent household while also adjusting to being accepted into society. Being raised in a single-family home, my mother instilled in me that being a black man in today’s society, you have to be effective at your university or beyond. I believe being a leader at Norfolk State University strengthens the needs and ability to break many of the societal barriers and encourages male students that they can be successful despite their circumstances. Norfolk State University has embodied who I am and who I am becoming."

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Noah Harris

1st Black Male SGA President, Harvard College Cambridge, Massachusettes

"I am so grateful to be elected to this position, and it means so much to be a part of history at Harvard by being the first black man elected by the student body. Anytime there is a first at the oldest school in the country that really means something. For this history to take place in a year where so many injustices took place is even more special. My Vice President, Jenny Gan, and I will work tirelessly to ensure the needs of students are met over the next year. It is important for us to experience this historic change because of the message it sends to young people all over the country and my home state of Mississippi. It shows that if you work hard in school and stay disciplined, you can go anywhere and do anything. There is something really powerful about being able to see someone who looks like you in this type of position. It makes us aspire to do things that might not have been on our radar otherwise. When running for this position, our slogan was Building Tomorrow’s Harvard, and to us, that means creating a Harvard that we can all be proud of and want to call home regardless of our background or identity. We want to implement a threepronged platform focused on diversity and inclusion, social life, and health and wellness. The Undergraduate Council’s main two roles are to uplift student voices to the administration and to fill gaps in the student experience through student initiatives. Those will both be as important as ever during this time of such social and academic uncertainty. We hope to use this moment of racial reckoning in our country to foster more productive conversations on race that started this summer. A lot of our advocacy will be focused on making sure Harvard is standing behind its students of color and making sure all students are able to feel like they belong. Diversity and Inclusion is an ongoing struggle, but we hope to move Harvard forward During my year in office, I hope I can take steps to ensure that while I am the first black man student body president, I won’t be the last. A major thing I have already started doing and plan to continue to do is molding black underclassmen to be ready to lead. In my role as Co-Chair of the Black Caucus, we set a record this year for black representation on the Council. That is where it starts. It just goes back to empowering people to believe they can do something like this at Harvard."

Kirk Miller

SGA President, Kentucky State University Frankfort, Kentucky

"As a Black man leading at Kentucky State University during a pandemic and racial injustice, I had to come to terms that I am leading something entirely new. An unprecedented time where all problems amplified and solutions second-guessed. Every day recognizing what I represent is not the present but the future of the student body and university. This thought process allows me to regularly explore all opportunities for growth, impact, and positive development. Whether it is through reactivating a premier organization in Collegiate 100 or mentoring and empowering students by giving them the tools they need to succeed. As I enter the second half of my leadership, I know that my leadership means everything. I can’t continue to win for the students and not teach the students how to win for themselves because I am only the foundation of something far greater than myself."

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Nomar M. Proctor

Mr. Elizabeth City State University Elizabeth City, North Carolina

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson. Throughout my life, I have learned the importance of a leader’s influence on individuals. From my perspective, leading as a Black man at my HBCU means discovering new heights while helping others reach their peak potential. Being raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland, myself and many of my peers lacked positive Black role models in our communities. Without guidance, it is hard to push yourself in life if you do not know what you are pushing for. Becoming Mister Elizabeth City State University placed me in a position to invoke inspiration amongst my community. I do my best to be a positive figure to everyone I encounter, hoping that I can make a difference in their life. Though I am able to have this influence, I could not have reached this point without my institution. My HBCU fostered an environment for young black people to feel empowered, assisting in our development as leaders in this world."

Jamal Clark

Executive President of SGA/ University Trustee, Lincoln University Lincoln University, Pensylvannia "I attend the nation's first HBCU, and it is an honor to have been chosen to lead my University. As a person of African descent, I knew that leading a population of students would be difficult. Upon building my platform, The Amalgamated Change Administration, the goal was Unified Change; My Vision was to lead in the direction of change. A quote that I live by is "We are different We are unique most important we are the change that we seek". C.H.A.N.G.E is Connect, Honesty, Accountability, Network, Growth, and Equality for all. Overall, leading during this time is simply leaving my legacy and living in my purpose. My Purpose is to Advocate for people who do not know how, or simply feel like they cannot. I do this by putting myself in leadership positions to promote professional development, discipline, and dedication."

Christyan Norman

Mister South Carolina State University Orangeburg, South Carolina

"Leading is not about being able to direct others on what to do, but rather being the man on the frontlines. As a man, one is to be strong and unbreakable no matter what form of chaos is thrown at him. Being elected by my peers as the 7th Mister South Carolina State University I remain humble because growing up I was not groomed to become a Senior Biology Major at a four year university, but with a natural born tenacious soul I became what I thought was impossible. As a “leader” I believe it is important to make it known that with determination and desire any dream is obtainable. I thank my fellow Bulldogs for allowing me to share my story and vision with the world. I will forever remain a loyal son."


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The Educated Mentor


SUBMIT AN ADVERTISEMENT TO OPERATION G.R.A.D, INC.! Do you have a business, product, or service that you want to promote to the Operation G.R.A.D community? Make an advertisement donation for space in one of our upcoming quarterly journals. Discounts may be applied for those interested in running an ad for more than one quarter. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON SUBMISSION CRITERIA, PLEASE EMAIL INFO@OPERATIONGRADNFP.ORG

the mentor recognizing trailblazer, Ayodele Harrison By: Jamie Enge


A husband, father, educator, coach, and innovator, Mr. Ayodele Harrison is a beacon of transformational hope as he works in partnership with schools, nonprofits, government agencies, and businesses to remedy and reverse the educational inequities our students, parents, caregivers, teachers, staff, and community members experience every day. Though equity work is not easy but necessary, Mr. Harrison does it with grace, dedication, and a smile.

everything he set his mind to, including football. Football provided the perfect balance of mental and physical fitness, which he played throughout high school and college. He knew he wanted an HBCU (Historical Black College and University) experience, and Howard University offered him that and so much more. As Mr. Harrison reflected on his experience, he intentionally recalls his high school guidance counselor.

Born and raised in Settle, Washington, the second-generation college graduate came from a supportive and robust foundation. Mr. Harrison shares: "My father immigrated from Nigeria to Seattle in the sixties by way of Canada. My mom is from Texas; that is where our roots are between Texas and Louisiana. They move with the migration more for jobs. My parents met, got married, created my brother than me. My dad is an engineer, and my mom is a teacher." Mr. Harrison attended an allboys, private Catholic high school where he graduated and fell in love with math, science, and sports. He deemed himself the "weird" kid who liked many weird things and excelled in


Winter 2020 Edition

Once there, Mr. Harrison studied Civil Engineering and walked onto the football team, where he earned a full-ride scholarship the following year. After obtaining a Bachelor of Science, he continued his education at the University of California, Berkeley, which he earned a Master of Science in Civil Engineering. Ayodele is a skilled engineer and educator at heart. He served as a math educator for the past twenty years and had the privilege to taught in international, private, and public school systems and communities. Mr. Harrison is not new to this, but TRUE to this, as he challenges while holding school leaders accountable for equal opportunities for children of color. Reflecting on his journey to this point, I asked Mr. Harrison about who served as a mentor(s) outside of his mother and father, who have had the most significant influence on him. First, he mentioned,

"My white guidance counselor is the one that actually took me to visit Howard. He makes a trip to DC every year to visit the Capitol and other things. He expressed interest and insisted on me coming, which I did. A white guy helped me get on Howard's campus."

"So, there is this woman who I was in a statistics class with‌ kind of primed the pump on that (mentorship). She aided me in thinking about teaching because I was not excited about the summer after my first year of graduate school that required me to go back into an engineering firm and an office. I just was not excited about that, so I attended an overseas career fair and ended up meeting my next mentor there, a brother by the name of Orpheus Crutchfield, President, and Founder of Strategenius."

The Educated Mentor

Mr. Harrison further explained, "He (Orpheus) has been a great mentor because he guided me into the profession (teaching), giving me my first job, and helped me land four different jobs. He introduced me to teaching overseas, and when I was uncertain about anything, he would listen to me, hear what I have to say, and then be able to navigate and work around that. I just felt like there were a connected feeling and a kinship that I had, and I think my relationships with very few people there is that connection. I am grateful to have connected with a few people like that, and I feel like Orpheus was one of those along with the previous ones. It (mentoring) is about being open and available. When I am openly sharing, people get a chance to see me, and I think mentorship gets to create the conditions to where you can see that person and share. If they cannot see themselves, share it with them, create the conditions because there is never any perfect space for that to happen, but create the conditions where you get moments to see that person and listen." Community Work The second half of our interview focused more on the work he is currently doing at CommunityBuild Ventures, LLC, where Ayodele currently serves as Winter 2020 Edition

the Senior Partner, Education. CommunityBuild Ventures (CBV) is a solution-focused firm charged and committed to eliminating racial disparities by coaching, developing, and training racial equity drive leaders and organizations. Ayodele passionately states, "We (CBV) seek to eliminate racial disparities by working with the structures that are empowered, leaders of those organizations, to help them move towards racial equity." Mr. Harrison believes that by eliminating the numerous disparities, they are developing powerful, impactful, and racial equity-driven leaders. As Harrison so beautifully framed, "No matter what you say, we talk about equity in so many different ways, no matter how you want to look at equity, whether it is in housing, gender, or identity experience is, and if you are a person of color, you usually are experiencing it much worse in that particular identified space." In the education space, CBV is living out their vision and as they look at educational inequities within a school and/or district and intentionally close the gap between students' realities and the school and/or district's mission. In addition to tackling racial equity, Mr. Harrison notes, "Black men makeup about six percent of the population on the planet and make up less than

two percent of the teaching workforce. So, there are some systemic structures in place that prevent us (black men) from entering the teaching profession, remaining in it, and even seeing it as a career." As the Director of BMEsTalks (Black Male Educators), Ayodele leads a team of black male educators to create and build professional learning opportunities and spaces for black male educators. Inside of those spaces, Mr. Harrison and his team are able to address marginalized black male educators' experiences by "creating learning spaces, affinity spaces, where we (black men) can learn how to listen to one another‌ learn how to affirm one another's culture, identity, experts, expertise. It is not that this is the only space of learning. BMEsTalks aims to create a space of learning because if there are so few of us, we feel disconnected and far apart." The Educated Mentor


While doing this much needed and impressive work, Mr. Harrison has been privileged to witness many rewarding experiences while working with other black male educators. One that immediately comes to mind for him occurred at one of the BMEsTalks' virtual spaces a few months back. Twenty black male educators (as Ayodele passionate called, brothers) from across the country in a multitude of capabilities in that particular space. Mr. Harrison vividly remembers two, "One of the brothers, JT Hall, got a phone call from his school that he had been hired. He had been elevated to Assistant Principal, and we were with him on that call, even though we could not hear the call because he stepped out, but we were with him at that moment. He (JT) shared he has been pushing and working for this (the Assistant Principal's role). Moreover, we were with him in that moment to celebrate him. We were the first people that learned that he got the job and how cool and rewarding for the other gentlemen and me to experience." BMEsTalks also offers a space where black men can provide constructive feedback and different perspectives. Doing another BMEsTalks' virtual space, a member discussed LGBTQA+ rights for black youth. Though there were moments of "heated and strong exchange conversations virtually," according to Mr. Harrison, there were moments of curious yet courageous


Winter 2020 Edition

vulnerability demonstrated. One of the members was trying to understand how to make space within his school community. It was not a dialogue filled with anger, but quite the opposite, passion. Based on the intentionality behind BMEsTalks, their spaces are attended to be a rich opportunity for learning and growing, which they achieve. What specific advice would you give those individuals who are looking to mentor Black men? As the interview came to a close, I allowed Mr. Harrison to share words of wisdom with others who are currently (or interested in) working with African American males. The first piece of advice was to actively ask oneself if they can be fully available, listen intently, and make space for African American males to be exactly who they are and the way they are without trying to change it. Mr. Harrison provides a more in-depth statement about what does being available means. He says it means asking oneself, "do I have the time to stay consistent with meeting/communicating with black males, and am I mentally and emotionally available to listen to, see them as already formed, and just being able to provide support." Secondly, Mr. Harrison strongly encourages mentors not to take anything

that their mentees say or do personally because it is not about you, and you cannot take things personally if they lash out or react differently than what you may be accustomed to. As a mentor, know, acknowledge, and then understand so many other factors, which many of them are out of your control, but the one thing in your control, according to Mr. Harrison is, "being physically and mentally present and fully available." Lastly, when moved towards concluding the interview, one more gem Ayodele shared that it can be powerful for individuals to know, and it is the distinction between expectation and hope. "An expectation is an assumption that something is going to happen the way that I so desire to happen, and hope is just desiring for it to happen the way I would like to happen. Often in mentorship, when times do not turn out the way we wanted or planned, we can hope for things to happen, but when we put expectation, then there is a disappointment that comes when it not there. We lose the joy in the work because we do not see what the expected outcome was." Mr. Ayodele Harrison, son, brother, husband, father, role model, mentor, school equity auditor, and more, we thank you for your unwavering commitment to serving Black men across the nation. We thank and salute you for being a trailblazer in the field of mentoring African American males.

The Educated Mentor



Dear Brother A Word of Encouragement

"Being a superhero, above all else, means being a role model. It means setting an example and inspiring others to be better people, and always doing what is right." - Jamie Harrison


Dear Brother, As a kid, I often dreamt about being a superhero. To me, superheroes could do anything. They always did what was right and always saved the day when it seemed all was lost. In America right now and in the Black community specifically, we need superheroes now more than ever. Over 16,000,000 Americans have fallen sick from the Coronavirus and over 300,000 have lost their lives. Millions have lost their jobs and many have been forced out of their homes. All the while, Black Americans are reeling from the constant stories of racial intolerance and injustice. In 2019, I decided that I couldn't sit idly by wishing for a miracle or a superhero to come and save my community. I decided that I needed to step up to bring hope back to communities in my home state of South Carolina. I needed to fight for those who felt forgotten and left behind. In 2019, I launched my candidacy for the United States Senate and ran against Lindsey Graham in a seat once held by John C. Calhoun and Strom Thurmond. Our campaign focused on lifting people up and addressing systematic inequalities in healthcare, education, infrastructure, criminal justice system and our economy. We even demonstrated our values through Harrison Helps, community service initiatives, where we partnered with community organizations to address the immediate needs of families across South Carolina. Our campaign inspired thousands to volunteer and talk with neighbors and friends to go out and vote. We didn't replace Graham in the Senate, but our campaign was historic. We set a record for the most raised by any Senate candidate in US History and received more votes (1.1 million) than any Democrat in South Carolina history. From the moment I announced my candidacy, I heard naysayers, but despite the negativity I never gave up. I couldn’t give up because so many individuals were counting on me to help them. Despite falling short, I will continue to be a voice for the voiceless. I learned as a kid that superheroes may not win every battle, but they must always continue to fight for what is right. What can you learn from my experience? How can you be heroic in the face of peril? I often think back to sitting on my living room floor as a kid taking in every page of my comic books. Superheroes help us find the best in ourselves. Being a superhero, above all else, means being a role model. It means setting an example and inspiring others to be better people, and always doing what is right.

So here’s the good news: you don’t need to fly to lift others to new heights. You don’t need to run faster than the speed of light to be a source of light in this moment of darkness. You don’t need to be able to lift a building to show incredible strength. In the end, my brother, if you truly want to be a superhero, then simply stand up and don't be silent in the face of inequality and injustice. Engage in good trouble and do all you can to fight for the least of these. You won't be alone, my brother, you will have a legion of us standing with you! Take care of yourself and keep fighting for what is right!

Jamie Harrison Your Brother,

Jamie Harrison 2020 US Senate Candidate- South Carolina

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You Can Because You Are By: Jeremiah E. Shipp, Ed.D. OPINION: Jeremiah E. Shipp, Ed.D., is a Faculty Development Specialist in the Center for Innovative and Transformative Instruction at Winston-Salem State University.

In high school, a teacher questioned my ability to be considered for acceptance into an honor society. After expressing my disappointment, my mother requested to meet with the teacher. During the meeting, every reason why I did not meet the requirements seemed to overshadow my humanity, superb academic performance, and civic involvement. It was evident that my admittance would disrupt the singular racial presence that comprised its membership. I did not get into the honor society, but something positive came out of the experience. My guidance counselor intervened and became a mentor. She encouraged me to see this obstacle as an opportunity. I will never forget her words, “You can because you are.� This was a significant moment that would shape how I view the intersection of African American intelligence, leadership, and mentoring. The statistics about the plight of African American males in academia can cause one to become disillusioned. Often the narrative is framed from a deficit-minded perspective that depicts men of color as the culprit. However, we cannot forget the role of institutional culture and the necessity of mentoring relationships with family, faculty, alumni, and community partners to the academic success of students. When the perception of academic performance includes the innate capability that each student possesses, new paradigms can emerge. Mentoring, whether formal or informal, positively impacts the retention of African American male students. Institutions that endeavor to create a formal mentoring program for Black male collegians should remember that institutional culture can help or hinder the success of the program. Mentoring requires culturally affirming environments where men of color can bring their full selves to the institution. The compartmentalization that occurs in the academy can leave students depleted and on a perpetual quest for significance. To this end, this article includes four recommendations to consider in a mentoring partnership.


Develop a growth mindset. Since campus support services are often underutilized, do not be afraid to ask for help. Your tuition and financial aid packages help to fund these services. Review your institutional website to identify and utilize the support services designed to meet the holistic needs of students. Be willing to explore the possibilities that will emerge from well-informed decision making.


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The Educated Mentor

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Ask good questions. Be prepared to listen more and to talk less. A well-crafted question can reveal much. Think critically and deeply with a desire to learn. The paths to avoid and avenues to pursue can be discovered by actively listening. Two good questions to ask a mentor are (1) What has been your biggest professional failure? What did you learn? (2) What are the essential skills that are necessary to advance in this profession?

Look beyond your campus. Create a LinkedIn profile and strategically connect with individuals who are living your dream. The mentor can be from the same or a different racial or ethnic background or academic discipline. The fallacy that meaningful relationships must be developed among individuals who share the same lived experiences is problematic. While there is value in the story of shared suffering, authentic relationships can also emerge from those with different world views and life experiences from those of our own.


Character counts. A mentor and mentee relationship should be reciprocal. The goal is not to seek a mentor that can help you make money, but someone who can strengthen your character is vital for effective leadership. This reciprocal relationship will reveal opportunities for personal development that will aid in academic and professional growth. Despite the challenges and systems that endeavor to destroy Black intelligence, choose settings that will celebrate and not dim or extinguish your light. By forming mentoring relationships that provide a healthy space to grapple with the complexities of being Black in America and the academy, you can unlock the treasures that you already possess. While negative experiences can often impede progress, choose to use them as a catalyst not to prove something to anyone else but to prove to yourself your unlimited potential. As we remember the life of Chadwick Boseman, our Black Panther, we must acknowledge the greatness that lies in each of us. You Can Because You Are!

Winter 2020 Edition

The Educated Mentor


Learn more about our Co-Founder's s 24

Winter 2020 Edition

The Educated Mentor


story as we CELEBRATE ONE YEAR! Winter 2020 Edition

The Educated Mentor


JE: As a Chicago native, I have been afforded rich


In this short article, Co-Founder's Darryl and Jamie conduct a self-interview to share a bit more about their story, what drives them, and what keeps them motivated to continue this important and necessary work.

1. HOW DID YOU TWO MEET EACH OTHER? JE: Two words…one organization…

PeerForward, formerly known as College Summit, whose mission is to increase the college enrollment rate of low-income high school students by ensuring every student who goes through their program is equipped for college success. As active alumni of the program, College Summit has given us tools that have shaped part of our personal and professional growth. It is because of the vision and passion of College Summit for this work that allowed Darry and I to be connected and eventually start our own legacy - Operation G.R.A.D, Inc.

2. WHAT MADE YOU INTERESTED IN MENTORING? WHAT IS YOUR WHY? DH: While I’m not a first-generation student, I come

from a broken household which stereotypically made me "at risk". Even with the uncertainties of various experiences of my childhood, there was one thing that remained consistent-Education. Regardless of where I lived or the issues within my immediate family or community, I could always count on education to be there for me. It was in those moments where I decided to devote my life to a profession to support and mentor other people like me looking for the safety and security education provides.


Winter 2020 Edition

opportunities in education, non-profit, leadership, and counseling to develop and strengthen my talents as an asset-based coach and educator. While managing uncertainties, fear, trauma, and perseverance, I made the ultimate choice of becoming a first-generation college graduate. While unpacking personal trauma and serving thousands of youths across the nation, I developed a sincere and ferocious passion for understanding the complexity of identity of who I am as a black man and how can I become a strategic and robust advocate in making systemic change. I chose to become a(n) coach, educator, and mentor to change the narratives and trajectories of those I serve inside and outside the classroom.

3. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST REWARDING MOMENT AS A MENTOR? JE: Activist, Educator and Global Mogul Oprah

Winfrey stated, “a mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” For many, if not all of us, potential lives inside us, and sometimes we may not know how to develop it to live out our passion and personal mission, so that is where a mentor comes in. My most rewarding moment as a mentor is seeing students achieve their aspirations. Throughout this challenging year, with a global pandemic and social unrest, I witnessed six students graduate with bachelor’s degrees, two students graduate with associate degrees, and ten students who took time off from pursuing a college degree and now are on track to reenroll for the upcoming semester. Each student has faced some adversity that required them to step outside of their comfort zone and into their power and talents, building character and resilience.

DH: Mentorship is defined by me as a shared

commitment between two individuals with intentional outcomes that guide the process. For me, while I have provided my mentees with the advice, knowledge, and wisdom, my most rewarding moment is seeing them reciprocate those energies to me in times where I need it. Often times mentors seen as

The Educated Mentor

the strong individuals who are unmovable and unshakable, but the reality is there are times where they struggle. I’ve learned from those I mentor that it’s okay to not be okay, to not be perfect, and to show that you have obstacles to overcome. The best moments I’ve had with those I mentor have been the spaces created where we have been able to be transparent, authentic, and vulnerable.

4. HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA TO START OPERATION G.R.A.D? DH: Operation G.R.A.D, Inc. is an extension of my

research studies. In my doctoral program, my research focused on the impact of mentoring on the persistence and retention of African-American males at Predominately White Institutions. In addition to the qualitative data retrieved from student interviews, one of the major outcomes of my research was the development of a First Year Seminar course specifically designed for African-American males. The course outcomes were great. Students were transparent, authentic and vulnerable in the space which cultivated a transformational learning experience. At the conclusion of the course, I realized that this work was bigger than FYS and I began thinking of how I could make a national impact. As I reflected on ways to accomplish this goal, I realized that I couldn’t do this alone. A few years prior, I was connected with Jamie and we had multiple conversations about our life’s goals and legacies. When I brought those conversations back up with him along with the idea of starting a nonprofit, he simply replied, “Let’s do it!” Now, one year later, you see the organization we have today.

appreciate the authenticity in his speech and his brotherly actions. He has been a confidant for me and in many cases a voice of reason to keep me level headed amongst the chaos of developing and managing Operation G.R.A.D. He is a great thought partner and leader; I couldn’t see myself building this journey with anyone else.

JE: What I appreciate most about Darryl is his

ambition. I believe ambition gets a bad rap in society. We (humankind) were told that winning is not about achieving; it is about beating the other person. However, ambition is what allows Darryl to attain his goals and dreams. He continuously sets goals, is willing to take risks, and exposes himself to new ways of thinking and executing.

5. WHAT DO YOU APPRECIATE MOST ABOUT YOUR CO-FOUNDER? DH: I don’t think there is one thing in particular

that I appreciate most about Jamie. Overall, Jamie has been a breath of fresh air for me as we navigate this journey. Since meeting him about 7+ years ago, he’s always had a presence about him that was centered around positive vibes and energy. I

Winter 2020 Edition

The Educated Mentor



$2.8K+ Acquired in donations


Total numbers of donors

Sumreen Ahmad Jadia Artis Theresa Atta Ifogah Kristen Crockett Gregory Dendy Katie Dudek Ebony Ford Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Michael Gemm Tymon Graham Leslie Graham Timothy Hannapel Rhuna Holley Trey Kyanite John Lee Tara Mathis Sheldon Maye Mai Maye DeAnna Pruitt Teunta Reed Gregory Ridgel Winston Wright Kathy Wallace Jalyn Wells Anonymous Anonymous



Gifts were made by organizations/businesses




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Operation G.R.A.D, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization

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