04/01/2015 09:15 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Rinkins Report: Non-Profit Executive Challenges Black Men to Be Mentors


Gale Nelson grew up in Toledo, Ohio and graduated from the University of Toledo as a recipient of the coveted Coca Cola "We Mean Business Scholarship" in 1992. Armed with a newly-minted Corporate Finance degree, Nelson had big dreams to cash in on Wall Street.

"My initial goal was to go to Wall Street, work as an investment banker, retire at 35, and live off the interest," Nelson recalls.

Gale, however, had a change of heart after searching for a missing paternal connection.

After graduating, I really wanted to meet my father. He and my mother divorced when I was two years old. He was not in my life at all after that. He was a contractor. So after Hurricane Andrew he came to Miami to work on the reconstruction effort. I came to Miami to reestablish a relationship with him.

Nelson admits growing up without a male figure was a very tough burden. That sentiment helped shape his active presence in the lives of his wife and four children. Now as the senior vice president for the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Greater Miami (BBBSGM), he devotes his efforts to easing the burden of the children who participate in the organization's mentoring program. After more than 20 years in youth development, Gale does not regret abandoning his Wall Street ambitions.

"I invested in the best thing that money can't buy: in helping kids change their lives," he adds. "Enjoying your work is a tremendous blessing. Getting the opportunity to see the impact we make on children's lives is compensation within itself."

As Miami's premier mentoring organization, BBBSGM is a donor-and volunteer-supported organization whose mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one mentor relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. Nelson is diligently seeking more people to help impact kid's lives.

Our children need to see more men. Women mentors outnumber men 3-to-1. The need for brothers especially black men is urgent. We have about 1,000 kids on our waiting list, especially black boys. We need black men to help us get some of these black boys off the street.

BBBSGM offers several options including: 1) Bigs in School -- a one-hour per week mentoring option in a school setting; 2) School-to-Work -- a monthly option that allows mentors to interact with a high school student for 4 hours in the workplace; 3) Community Program- volunteers pick up mentees and participate in coordinated programming and activities; and 4) Black Advisory Council- helps BBBSGM by raising funds and recruiting volunteers to serve the children on the waiting list.

Nelson adds: "If you can't spare the time hopefully you can spare a dime. BBBSGM depends on community and donor support. This investment can change lives and improve our communities."

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Zach Rinkins is an award-winning author, speaker and journalist. Let's connect on Facebook or Twitter @ZachRinkins.

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