Investing in Community

Student embraces mentorship as way to help others

by Kody Klein , Published November 14, 2012

Most students go to college to improve their own lot in life; Nick Patterson is going so he can improve that of others'.

"I want to be a mentor," he says.

Patterson, a senior at Eastern Michigan University studying secondary English education, works full time at the Ypsilanti branch of the Michigan Works! Association.

"I get to help people with their resumes and I get to help people find jobs," Patterson says. "It gives me a kind of satisfaction, knowing that I'm helping someone. Just seeing them smile because I'm helping them with their resume is pretty cool. It confirms that the field I'm going into, education, is one of the fields I want to be in. I don't look at this as a job. I like doing it. I get to outreach to the community."

Patterson grew up in Detroit. He says that had a big impact on him-that growing up in a rough neighborhood taught him the value of community.

Since coming to EMU, he's tried to create a stronger and more positive community on campus. Last year, he worked with Reggie Barnes, EMU's director of diversity and community involvement, to start an EMU chapter of Black Leaders Aspiring for Critical Knowledge (BLACK).

Patterson says he wanted BLACK to be "a place where a small group of males can come together and talk about the image of black men on campus, how we can make it something more positive, and how we can reach our own males, how we can make an impact in their lives and let them know there are people who shares their struggles."

This year, BLACK has focused on mentoring freshmen. Members of the organization "adopt" a freshman student and "check on him throughout the year, study with him, bond with him, sort of like a little brother."

"Our theme this year is 'foundation,'" Patterson says. "We don't want to start high. We want to start at the beginning and plant the mustard seeds. We want to influence them while they're younger so that they know what resources are available to them, so by the time they get to our age, they won't have made the same mistakes that they we did."

While Patterson's community efforts on campus are impressive, he felt compelled to do more. His former high school teacher and personal mentor, Dwyone Joiner, urged him to start thinking of ways he could extend his community involvement to the community that helped raise him.

"He told me to invest in my community. He encouraged me to extend the outreach I've given to Eastern to Detroit, to invest in the community that invested in me," Patterson says. "He used to say that if people would spend 10 minutes of their time trying to help Detroit, it wouldn't be the place people think it is now. I'm trying to give back my 10 minutes times a thousand."

Now Nick is launching a whole new program called Men Aiming for Progression at Detroit's Cody High School, the school he graduated from.

"The purpose of that program is to do the same thing that we're doing at Eastern at a high school level," Patterson says. "We're going to help the students fill out their FAFSAs and write their resumes. We want to encourage them to become involved in their communities and assist them in finding employment."

In addition to helping these high school students prepare for college and employment, Patterson says he wants to be someone who will listen to them and help them through their struggles.

"Sometimes students just want someone who is going to take the chance and listen, someone who'll be a nonjudgmental person," he says. "That's what I want to be to the students. I want to listen to them, help them and guide them the best that I can so that they can make the best decisions."

Geoff Larcom


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