A local mentoring Initiative is focused on building relationships and providing guidance for kids, Shayla Reaves reports (3:01). WCCO 4 News At 5 - June 3, 2021
- A local mentoring initiative is focused on building relationships and providing guidance for kids. It's called the Doorstep Foundation. As Shayla Reaves found out, the goal is to provide encouragement, celebrate achievement, and navigate challenges.
ANDRE DEBONAIRE MCNEAL: One of the things you can't get back in life it's time.
SHAYLA REAVES: Planning ahead--
ANDRE DEBONAIRE MCNEAL: The bell rings your entire life telling you where to go.
SHAYLA REAVES: -- is happening here.
ANDRE DEBONAIRE MCNEAL: So if you come in here on time, prepared and ready to go with your shirts, what are you going to do in school?
SHAYLA REAVES: -- for each of the young men filling these seats.
ANDRE DEBONAIRE MCNEAL: You've got to learn to be on time, prepared, ready to go with your work. Say it loud, say it strong, do it right.
JAIDEN SPEARS: I'm Jaiden. I'm 15, and I'm a Den Brother. [CLAPS]
SHAYLA REAVES: The teens are part of the Doorstep Foundation.
ANDRE DEBONAIRE MCNEAL: Raise your hand. Y'all have been doing this. Raise your hand. Let me see your hands. JJ, where yours at? [LAUGHS]
SHAYLA REAVES: Andre Debonaire McNeal runs the mentoring initiative with his wife Dr. Zakia Robbins McNeal.
ZAKIA ROBBINS MCNEAL: We want them to feel like they're part of a big family. We talk to them about their day. Talk to them about their highlights, talk to them about what's going good.
SHAYLA REAVES: Creating the space began as an idea during Andre's years in radio. He says so many people called asking for help with backpacks and holiday events the phone lines became overwhelmed.
ANDRE DEBONAIRE MCNEAL: I said leave it on Debonaire's Doorstep by faxing the radio station and we'll get you all you guys taken care of.
SHAYLA REAVES: After volunteering for other organizations, he wanted to do more.
ANDRE DEBONAIRE MCNEAL: The criterias bothered me. You had to make a certain amount of money. You had to live in a certain demographic area. And I felt like if a family is asking for help for their kid, how do you say no?
SHAYLA REAVES: When co-workers asked him to speak to their sons, he says he traveled the city to have conversations, eventually putting together a group that would become the Doorstep Foundation.
ANDRE DEBONAIRE MCNEAL: And you guys are going to learn to evolve to be brothers, whether we're in here or you see each other out there in the community.
SHAYLA REAVES: Brothers, growing together and learning along the way.
LARKHILL GARLINGTON: It's helped me a lot to become a better person, and to problem solve.
JAIDEN SPEARS: I think leadership, development, independence.
MYLES WILSON: I think it's definitely made me be able to form kind of strong connections with people.
ANDRE DEBONAIRE MCNEAL: As we watch these guys grow up in a neighborhood as we get older, we know that we're doing our part to leave the community in better hands.
SHAYLA REAVES: A group one man started to help so many others, also his reason to keep going.
ANDRE DEBONAIRE MCNEAL: My mother died on my birthday. Recently as my daughter was murdered-- our daughter was murdered away at college, that this little lady had such an amazing, huge voice, and cared about everybody else around her. They wrote me letters that kept me going, and got me back here doing the work. So I've needed them just as much as they've needed me.
SHAYLA REAVES: Shayla Reaves, WCCO 4 News.
- 20 young men participate in the program year round. A separate program is available for young women. The McNeals want to expand the Doorstep Foundation into every County and School District, providing support to teachers and families. And we have more about their efforts on our website at wcco.com.