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Will Green founded Mentoring Positives in 2004 to serve the many at-risk youth in the Darbo-Worthington area on Madison’s east side. Mentoring Positives is a referral-based mentoring program that improves youths’ behaviors in the home, school, and community to keep them out of criminal behaviors that ultimately lead to juvenile detention, jail, or prison and, thus, to break the cycle of recidivism for high-risk youth. Green was raised by a single mother in Gary, Indiana.

Name your top 5 MCs.

  1. Tupac Shakur
  2. Ice Cube
  3. KRS-One
  4. Biggie Smalls
  5. Scarface

What motivates you more, doubters or supporters? I think everyone is motivated when you have people supporting you so I would say I’m motivated by my supporters.  However, I just may be a bit more slightly motivated by the doubters/haters.  I do believe our agency Mentoring Positives has survived in Madison for the past 12 years because I was determined to not quit through all the trials and tribulations.  We all deal with jealously and envy directed at us in life at some point so its all about how you deal with it.  As I think back in my life I have always been quietly motivated and determined to beat the odds.  That is why I have been most successful in my life.

What does it mean to be Black in Madison? As a black man I have a great responsibility on my shoulders just like every other black man in the U.S.  I understand as a black man in Madison that I need to be a positive black male role model.

What three leaders in Madison under 50 have impressed you the most?

Noble Wray

Rebecca Ryan

Kaleem Caire

What’s the biggest stumbling block in Madison to turning the corner on our racial disparities? Not being bold enough to be intentional about increasing the well-being of minorities in the city of Madison.  What I mean by that is we have to create meaningful educational classes, entrepreneurial endeavors, living-wage jobs, support of black-owned businesses and small grassroots organizations and when we build these opportunities for minorities individuals we can’t let them fail.

What are your top three priorities at this point in your life? 

  1.  Spending more time with my family
  2.  Self care/Make life changes to become more healthier
  3.  Continue to provide and expand mentoring to our most at-risk youth and families in the community for the next 20 years

How do you build trust in communities of color?  The organization Mentoring Positives I started in 2004 is located in the Darbo Worthington neighborhood.  It has been a challenged neighborhood for over 30 years.  This has always been a mystery and a bit troubling to me as Darbo is literally 2 blocks long and has been challenged for 30 years.  This is Mentoring Positives 12th year in the Darbo neighborhood and being directly in a low-income neighborhood providing mentoring services to youth and families has created some true trusting relationships with communities of color.  By MP being able to connect with troubled youth and providing positive mentoring activities for youth in the neighborhood, we are loved and trusted by parents to engage, inspire and mold their child to be productive positive individuals. We build trust by being consistent with programming, using grassroots efforts to engage and reach out to residents, holding neighborhood meetings to learn more about one another and providing support to get residents involved in activities in the neighborhood.

Why do you feel that neighborhoods of color in Madison are in a state of emergency? It’s really unfortunate that many minority families can only live in certain neighborhoods like Darbo, Meadowood and Allied Drive. Many of these neighborhoods are rental properties surrounded by homeowners. Neighborhoods of color are in a state of emergency because there no true investment in those neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods are food deserts and lack jobs and affordable housing. Residents in our neighborhoods of color lack hope and often don’t think that things will change.

Your mom had you when she was 14 years of age. What advice would you give to kids who have young single mothers?  My mom had me at age 14 and always had a close relationship. I never had my dad in my life.  Advice that I would give to kids who have young single mothers is love your mother without judgement. My mom didn’t always make the correct choices, but she always tried her best to do what was right. Support your mom and make good choices to relieve the burden of stress in her life.

How did basketball help you achieve your professional goals? I love the game of basketball.  I was always a standout player ever since elementary school.   Basketball gave me the opportunity to go to college.  I attended a junior college (Kankakee Community College) from ’89-’91 and then transferred to UW-Eau Claire and played ball for Ken Anderson from ’91-’93.  I had a great mentor and coach from about the 4th grade up until I graduated from high school in 1989. Coach Carl Traicoff, who recently passed away, was the best basketball-minded coach I have ever been around. It was a privilege to play for him. He taught his basketball players that basketball is life. So he was awesome at relating the two together. As I developed my basketball fundamentals and became better with practice, I gained a self-confidence and self-esteem about myself. Playing basketball helped me become a leader so I use the principles like perseverance, dedication, team work and mental toughness of basketball in my life.  

Basketball was one inspiration in my creation of Mentoring Positives my mentoring program working with at-risk youth. Our motto is “The Hook Is The Key”.  So, I use basketball as the hook to engage high school-aged teen boys into our mentoring program. Basketball is at the root of what I do professionally and personally in my life.

Why did you start the business called Off the Block Salsa? Off the Block Salsa is a P_OfftheBlockSalsaprogram of Mentoring Positives.  Mentoring Positive mission is committed to: Building strong and trusting relationships, positive attitudes, and life skills in youth through mentoring and entrepreneurship. Our vision is to: Inspire positive changes in youth and families. Seven years ago Off the Block Salsa was born as an idea to help give the teens something positive to do during the spring/summer. A community activist suggested that we make salsa. I took some of the teens in my basketball group and put them to work in the garden growing our own tomatoes and peppers for Off the Block Salsa. Holy Cross Church had donated Mentoring Positives an acre of land to grow our produce. The Salvation Army also donated their kitchen to MP and the kitchen was approved to make our Off the Block Salsa in it.  

The boys always dreamed of our Off the Block Salsa product being sold in stores when we first started the program. Not knowing if we ever would get OTB salsa in stores I told the boys it would happen. Shortly after promising the boys OTB salsa would be in stores, Tim Metcalfe from Metcalfe Markets sent me a message wanting to know if we would like to get OTB salsa in his stores and of course we said “yes.” Now that we have OTB salsa in the stores, we were introduced to the Farm Market Kitchen who now helps us produce the salsa. We created the salsa program so that it became a revenue generating mechanism for the mentoring program. Many nonprofits have to raise moneys each year to sustain funding. We are hoping that OTB salsa sales will help Mentoring Positives become a financial self-sustaining organization. Off the Block Salsa is a win-win situation for individuals who purchase the product. All proceeds goes back to Mentoring Positives to support the youth programming. Off the Block Salsa is really not about the salsa its about teaching tangible life skills for our youth and families we work with in the program and community.

Right now, Mentoring Positives is in a $100,000 dollar campaign and we have raised 50 percent of those funds so far. We will be looking to hire teens and young adults in the OTB program to do more in store demos. We know our salsa sales increase when we have the boys in the store for demos.

Written by Henry Sanders

Henry Sanders

Henry Sanders is Publisher and CEO of Madison365.

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