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I know I wouldn’t be where I am today had it not been for people mentoring me.
I met one of my most influential mentors in college—I went to Cheyney University in Pennsylvania. His name was Dr. Williams and, at the time, he was the dean of the Keystone Honors Academy. He pretty much took me and a bunch of my friends under his wing and put us on to what conferences to go to, what scholarships to apply for. He also pushed Alpha on us from, like, the gate (laughter). Throughout our time at Cheyney—and even beyond—he was our sounding board, giving us advice on our careers after college and more. And that was very important because a lot of us were the first in our families to go to college. So it wasn’t like we could ask our parents for advice on certain things. I mean, we could, but here we had someone who had ‘been there and done that,’ and did it well enough to become a dean. And he was also a black man. That was just phenomenal.
Althea Kitchens has been a very influential mentor to and advocate for me ever since I returned home from Cheyney. She’s a Cheyney alum I met in 2008 and she’s seen more in me than I’ve seen in myself, which has been the most important aspect of our mentor/mentee relationship. Through her mentoring, I’ve spoken on panels, volunteered with the Delta EMBODI program countless times with their young men’s group, and she’s even recommended me to other chapters around the city to speak. I’ve used the mentorship model that we have with people I have an opportunity to mentor and as a way to pass on the knowledge I’ve received.
With regard to my business (GReid New York) and some other aspects of my career, my Uncle Jeffrey is a mentor to me. He owns a couple of Golden Krust restaurants in the Bronx and he was my first employer. It was definitely the hardest I’ve ever worked but I learned so much. There was something about riding around the city with a black man who owned his own business, who was able to employ people, and who was providing a valuable service to the community. I did wash pots and scrub floors, but I also got to go on bank runs and market runs. And I went to important meetings with him. I saw how he did things. He left the corporate world to become an entrepreneur, and that sparked my entrepreneurial spirit from a very early age.
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