Compton, CA – Twenty-five years after he graduated from Compton High School, Michael Freeman found himself at a school reunion in 2001 listening to the principal at that time give an update about what was happening at his alma mater.
“He also gave an appeal for help, and I heard that,” said Freeman who was in transition at the time. “I went and talked to him two weeks later, and he shared with me a vision for establishing a mentor program at the school.”
Freeman said the principal, Gipson Lyles, thought it was great to bring professionals to the campus once a year to interact with students on career day, but that was just once a year. He wanted something with more substance and longevity.
Joining forces, the two men created a nonprofit organization called Elevate Your G.A.M.E. (Grades, Attendance, Maturity and Empowerment) that exposes middle and high school students at six campuses plus one apartment complex to a weekly opportunity to talk with, listen to and meet people working in careers.
“Our intent with the mentoring is motivation. We want to motivate students to excel in their grades, attendance, maturity, and empower them to be leaders. We do that by bringing in adult professionals, who get together with the students in small groups (no more than three or four youngsters) on a designated day of the week, and we will have the program coordinator select a topic for that session.”
Freeman said the topics range from academic to character development and are designed to cover the four basic principles of the organization.
In addition to adults mentoring the students, Freeman said some of the older youngsters are being trained to mentor younger pupils at their school or at the middle school level.
“We also have a summer internship program where we partner with businesses throughout the area (Xerox, Toyota as well as law and dental offices) and in government agencies such as the Compton Court, the (Compton) Fire Department,” explained Freeman, who spent almost two decades working for World Impact in South Los Angeles and the Philadelphia area.
High school students who are part of the mentoring program are placed in a three-week internship where they work six hours a day, and at the end of the period are given a stipend.
“The purpose of the internship is to expose them to people who have career jobs and to give them a vision of what they can do in the future. It’s also to motivate them to strive for more,” Freeman said. “Once they get through they understand why they are in school and why they should go to college.”
Those students who have a 3.0 grade point average or higher get a six-week internship. The idea is to drive home the point that those who do better in education, go further in life and get paid more, noted Freeman.
In addition to all of these activities, students in the program participate in service projects such as collecting books and giving them to local schools.
Ultimately Freeman wants to partner with churches throughout urban communities and train their personnel on how to operate Elevate Your G.A.M.E. in schools around the nation. He intends to begin that recruitment process this year.
Meanwhile to keep the organization functioning, he is looking for additional financial support.
Like most nonprofits, Elevate Your G.A.M.E. is supported with grants from foundations and organizations as well as donations from businesses and individuals. They also hold several fundraisers each year, and the first is a Walk-A-Thon planned for March 28 at Compton High.
The other is a golf tournament which is being planned for sometime in July.
Those interested in participating in the fundraisers, making a donation or becoming a mentor, can contact Freeman at www.elevateyourgame.org; firstname.lastname@example.org; (310) 780-4263 or at P.O. Box 5281, Compton, CA 90224.