By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
It was after Eric Perry was released from a lengthy hospital stay that he realized the impact he had on the children he mentors.
“Their reaction to seeing me again was amazing,” Perry recalled. “It showed me that we had really set something in their hearts.”
Perry, 28, is the founder and CEO of New Generation Mentoring Organization (NGMO), a program for students at Huffman Middle School which is split between girls, Thriving Young Ladies; and boys, Men of Remarkable Expectations (MORE).
Mentors come into Huffman weekly to tutor, counsel, host small group discussions and sometimes provide breakfast. Mentors are at the school on Tuesday and Thursday of every week and the program is for all students, Perry said. Currently, more than 50 students participate.
“For students who want to see what it’s all about, they’re welcome to sit in one time during a morning session, and if they like it, they bring a signed permission form from their parents to continue being a part of us,” Perry said.
“We want them to have fun, of course, but we focus on giving kids the knowledge of life, basic life instructions … we want everything to be a learning experience,” said Perry, who attended Huffman Middle School.
“When I attended [Huffman] we had people who would come in once a month to talk to us, and a month or two later they would come back,” he said. “A foundational mentorship should be in the school, on a weekly basis, not just a monthly basis.”
Perry said his organization teaches 3D: determination, decision-making and discipline.
“We want them to be determined to be better in life; we want them to make the right choices. As middle-schoolers, they often act before thinking, so we’re teaching them to think about their actions before they do them,” Perry said. “And everyone has to have discipline to do anything you want in life.”
Results have been noticeable, Perry said. NGMO, which was founded 2014, has seen improvements.
“It’s impacted the kids in ways I can’t imagine,” Perry said. “We have kids who were doing gang-related activities who have stopped those activities. We have kids who had behavioral issues improving on their issues. Kids have changed their mindset. We have kids who have set educational goals. Kids have gone from a 40 to an 85.”
They just wrapped up their boys lock-in, where students learned about interacting with law enforcement, learning their legal rights, as well as building teamwork.
The program is an example of the impact a positive person can have on a student, Perry said.
“We have mentors that are constantly in the hallways of the school, and in the classrooms,” he said. “Our mentors go to homeroom and talk with the students on the days they are there.”
Perry, who is also a real estate agent, wants his students as determined as he is. He was hospitalized for most of 2016 because of surgery for pancreatitis, but he has not been slowed at all. He hopes NGMO can go into other schools in the city.
“We want to take this city by storm,” Perry said. “The kids eventually go off to high school, which is a whole new ball game, and we want them to have someone that they can talk to about the challenges they will face in high school.”