Bonding and Basketball in Baltimore

The heart of iMentor’s model and mission is building personal relationships. During these uncertain times, we are compelled to help sustain and bolster these connections. In honor of National Volunteer Week, we are featuring a few of our dedicated mentors. Today, we talk to Wayne Sharpe, a mentor with iMentor Baltimore, about how a mutual interest in basketball enabled him to support Kyion, his mentee, in planning for college.

What inspired you to volunteer as a mentor?

I’m retired now, and I was looking for a way to give back. I also coach youth basketball and I enjoy working with young people and wanted to find a way to help minority teenagers with their education and getting to college. One of my fraternity brothers in Phi Beta Sigma sent out a message about iMentor needing volunteers, and it seemed like a good opportunity. Not just for the kids, but for me too. It gives me a way to be useful and beneficial, to help my community.

Tell me about your mentee, Kyion.

Kyion is a good kid. He’s a little quiet, and very athletic. He’s been playing basketball since he was young, runs cross country and track, and plays football. That gave us something in common, and once we start talking about sports, he gets animated and it opens the conversation up to other topics. That’s kind of my mentoring methodology. He’s also really good at math. One day, we were going to meet at his school for lunch, and our iMentor Program Manager asked if I’d want to sit in on his math class, since it was the period right before. It was great to see him helping the other kids solve algebra problems.

Tell me about your favorite experience together so far.

Through iMentor, I got to accompany Kyion and his mom to an event at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. It was part college fair, part pro basketball game, and really fun! He’s interested in exploring sports management professionally, and that’s what the college fair was geared toward. Two of the schools Kyion had mentioned to me before—West Virginia University and Michigan State—were at the fair, and he got to talk to them. Then, and this was a fun surprise, he was recognized at the basketball game for an essay contest he won. When the team came out at the half, he got to shake the players’ hands as they came through the tunnel.

What is your relationship like, and how has it developed over time?

It’s good, definitely still developing, but he’s becoming more trusting. I can tell he’s listening when we talk about what the college experience is like. His mom really wants him to go, and he and I talk about life on campus, fraternities and sororities, stuff like that. When we met, he already wanted to go to college, but his main focus was on playing basketball there so he could get drafted into the NBA. I’ve seen my role as helping him focus on careers that connect to his interest in sports beyond playing professionally. That’s where we started talking about colleges with majors in kinesiology and sports management. I want him to have a good set of options.

How else have you supported Kyion in planning for life after high school?

We’ve been talking about SAT prep and the pros and cons of going to college in-state and out of state. I’m encouraging him to get his GPA up to a 3.5 to open up more opportunities for programs and scholarships.

What have you gained so far from volunteering?

The mission of iMentor means a lot to me, because I have to admit, when I was a teenager, I didn’t understand what the big deal was about college, or why it meant so much to my mom. But looking back on my life and career, I see what a difference that piece of paper made in terms of the opportunities I had. iMentor is definitely something I would recommend to my friends or fraternity brothers. It makes me feel good to have a concrete chance to influence a young person, whether they go to college, and how prepared they are when they show up.