Talk with Atrayus Goode and it’s easy to compare him to a soldier on a mission.
His weapons and armor are encouragement and relationships.
His objective – to prepare the leaders of tomorrow.
Goode is founder and director of Movement of Youth, an educational and mentoring program granting opportunities to a diverse group of community high school students choosing to chase higher education.
It’s a comprehensive program designed to strengthen academic performances while also fostering relationship and leadership skills and providing a support network for these future leaders to lean on.
Talented local college students from N.C. Central, Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill become mentors and friends to high school students in MOY and not only for a semester or two, but potentially for a lifetime. The trade-off is having these same students graduate, perhaps from these same universities, soon.
It’s happening already.
After starting in 2006 with 11 students and mentors, the non-profit movement has grown to about 100 students and mentors this year.
In fact, this is the first year that students from MOY’s first class are graduating from college.
When Goode started MOY as a junior at UNC studying interpersonal communications, he knew that’s what he wanted.
The Clarkson, GA native knows a few things about building relationships – besides earning a degree in it; he had a mentor touch his life in the same way.
While coming of age in Charlotte, Goode found a mentor through the 100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte mentoring program, Wilbert Harper, a senior executive with BB&T. After being sent to UNC with a scholarship from the program, Goode felt the need to give back.
Harper was and still is a big part of that need. When Goode faced challenges as an adolescent, Harper pushed him, encouraged him, to keep trying.
These days, Goode and Harper stay in close touch but not as mentor/mentee, but as men.
Now Harper is Goode’s best friend and will be the best man in his upcoming wedding.
“He mentored by example,” said Goode. “When I needed encouragement as a kid, he showed me the richness of life.”
“It’s been great having a friend that doesn’t judge me.”
Mentoring was helpful for Goode. When the hard-times came, he was faced with a choice – to lie down or keep going. Harper showed him that there is always a chance for redemption, even when others told Goode there wasn’t.
“He taught me that ultimately you have power,” said Goode. “Either you can give it to others or take control.”
Taking control of their lives is what teens at Movement of Youth learn. With the help of community corporate sponsors and the mentors, they’re “exposed” to unique experiences.
Exposure is the key– a chance to see and experience the world.
There are campus visits to the local universities but also as far as Harvard, Princeton and MIT to expose students to campus life. There’s a Saturday Academy twice a month that exposes them to entrepreneurship and technology sessions. There are dining and business etiquette workshops and twice a year students participate in community outreach initiatives like the MLK Day of Service or A Walk for Breast Cancer.
Taking the movement’s walk with a mentor, with a story similar to the student, the kids learn the value of a sincere relationship. It could carry them a long way.
“The students need love, not criticism of how awful they are,” said Goode. “They need someone to tell them they can get here, they can achieve.”
“It’s what I feel like I’ve been called to do.”
Understanding Stories, Understanding Success
Interested students apply on MOY’s website or are referred by school officials like guidance counselors to the program. Afterward, a face-to-face interview may be scheduled where students are questioned about their lives and challenges they face.
To Goode, understanding the factors that impact a kid, such as hunger at home, helps mentors students are matched with to understand their story.
“We connect kids with mentors that have similar stories,” he said. “By understanding the story, you’re not as quick to jump to conclusions.”
Parent Shelli Porter and her daughter Krystal, a teen food critic for the VOICE, were invited to join MOY Krystal’s freshman year.
Krystal’s mentor is a student at UNC that keeps close tabs on her and offers support and advice on dealing with teenage challenges.
To mother and daughter, MOY plays an important part in the lives of students and the community.
“The college mentors and the activities that this group does will mold and shape their futures in a positive way,” said Porter. “Some students view college life as an extension of high school life and if those experiences were negative, it may make them choose not to pursue a degree.”
Porter said kids in MOY are learning that education can be challenging but fun. They are shown the world beyond the negativity and “envision” themselves achieving great things.
“They are the leaders, business owners, presidents of large corporations and educators of the future,” said Porter. “MOY is helping them recognize that fact early-on.”
Success in Goode’s mission is setting others on a positive path. Success looks different to everybody – for some it’s becoming a doctor, lawyer or CEO. For others, success may simply be being a good student or parent.
“Success can be different things but you have to be the best you,” Goode said. “Be your personal best and you’ve won.”
To get involved or to learn more about Movement of Youth, visit their website at http://www.movementofyouth.org/.