New second chance program offers mentorship to River Parishes’ young men

Published 2:14 pm Sunday, July 2, 2023

GRAMERCY — Coach Rondell Joseph’s house is always filled with kids who look to him for guidance. He’s dedicated his life to the youth as the Recreation Coordinator in St. James Parish and a volunteer coach in St. John Parish, and he’s now taking his outreach a step further with a new second chance and mentorship program geared toward young men in the River Parishes.

“I’ve been coaching for a long time. I see a lot of kids who I’ve coached since they were 4 years old, and now some of them have taken the wrong path,” Joseph said. “It’s a vision given to me by God. Kids are very important to me, and I think we all need to fight together.”

Joseph said the Boys to Men program will go “deeper than mentoring” by offering support to high school students and recent graduates in St. John the Baptist, St. James and St. Charles parishes. The program will be open to young men ages 16 to 20 from all walks of life.

During classes held at the local library, leaders in the community will serve as guest speakers, equipping the young men with skills needed for college or the workforce. Classes will be held once a month and last approximately 90 minutes, with the first hour consisting of educational material. The remaining 30 minutes will feature door prizes or gift card raffles to incentivize the youth.

“Our motto is bring us boys, and we will return them to you as men,” Joseph said. “We want to teach them about credit, how to get into college, how to dress for different events like black tie versus business attire; every skill you need in life. I also want to take the guys who have messed up in life and give them a second chance by getting them into a vocational school or helping them find jobs.

There are no requirements to participate in the Boys to Men program.

“If a kid reaches out to me, I’m there for them,” Joseph said. Also assisting with the program are Derhonda Johnson, Marlishia Williams, Shanrick Burns, Kendell Windfield, Shavin Hill, Dion Payne and Dhyruss Batiste.

While the program has not started, Joseph and his wife have already taken some kids under their wing by transporting them to jobs or athletic showcase camps. One of the individuals they are helping, a young man who needed a second chance in life, is now on the verge of playing college football.

Joseph also has a passion for promoting education in the River Parishes. His mother and aunts worked as educators, and he is now married to an educator. In May 2024, he plans to implement a scholarship in the Boys to Men program. He has also vowed to hold a graduation ceremony for the young men and women in the alternative program, believing every student should have the opportunity to walk across the stage.

For more information, contact Joseph at 225-264-9315.