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Local men stepping up to become mentors at the Up Center in Portsmouth

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by: Bianca Holman
Posted: Feb 9, 2023 / 06:49 AM EST
Updated: Feb 9, 2023 / 06:49 AM EST

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Having a mentor can make a major difference in a child’s life. The Up Center in Portsmouth was in desperate need of men to help make a positive impact on young boys.

Xavier Bullard and Andre Council are two of the Up Center’s newest mentors. They say after hearing a 10 On Your Side story in 2022, they decided to volunteer. Jessica Simmons with the UP Center says they had a long waitlist, which was made up of mostly black boys. 

“When you see the match and they are making those improvements that is the aha moment for us,” said Jessica Simmons. “That is what we use for the driving force.” 

Bullard, who manages a local restaurant, says adding mentoring to his schedule was easier than expected. He meets with his mentee Zion to play basketball, go over homework, and share life lessons especially when it comes to social media.

“Showing him a different life of being an African American man,” said Bullard. “You don’t have to be what others, or mostly what is portrayed.” 

Council is a father, and says the onboarding process to become a mentor was smooth. His mentee is 8-year-old Kayden, who had to wait a year for a match.

“I can do both, you can be there for your family,” said Council, “and you can be there for a child who needs a positive role model in their life.” 

Simmons says students age out, mentors move away, and new referrals for students come in daily. The group is always looking for more me to step up and answer the call.

“When you have that mom to send you the report card or that child to put on a survey ‘you guys have changed my life’,” said Simmons, “That’s what makes all of the hard work worth it.”

If you are interested in mentoring call The Up Center at 757-337-3513 or visit their website.

View the full story on WAVY’s website at:

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