Truth vs. Perception: A Conscious Commitment
Big Thought presents Truth Versus Perception intimately explores and shares experiences of the Fellows of The Fellowship Initiative and supporters. This multi-part series is designed to dispel the negative, perceived notions of young men of color.
These are their words. Their experiences. Their truths. Listen and unlearn.
The Fellowship Initiative (TFI) is a conscious commitment. A commitment that not all young men have the ability or flexibility in their schedule or lifestyle to make. The three year program requires a high school sophomore balance other extracurricular, employment opportunities or social activities by attending in person programming three Saturdays a month.
For a typical teen that type of dedication is one having a mindset of knowing the ‘tree is in the seed.’ That sowing guided Humberto, a grad of Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, to Denison University in Ohio where he majors in Communications and looks forward to a career in marketing and advertising.
TFI offered those services like college and SAT prep, so I was willing to sacrifice to get the help I needed to get to college,”
Known for his coolness, being even keeled (in any situation) some might think Humberto shy, but his calm nature lends to his maturity, but also his mom, a staunch supporter of the program. “As first-generation Mexican American, even with family support, I knew I needed assistance in preparing and applying for college. TFI offered those services like college and SAT prep, so I was willing to sacrifice to get the help I needed to get to college,” stated Humberto. Humberto also shared that he was intrigued by the opportunity to travel to different places for college tours and other skill building activities like Outward Bound.
“With the support of TFI mentors, the young men understand that although you are different, there is no difference in what you contribute…”
Humberto shared his pride of being a TFI Fellow, the experiences and life lessons he learned over the three years. As well as how he sees himself opposed to how others see and prejudge him, now using real life tools and strategies that TFI instilled in him that help him stand in his own truth and value as a young man of color. Today, those same values help him sit in classes with white counterparts for the very first time. With the support of TFI mentors, the young men understand that although you are different, there is no difference in what you contribute even when you feel like you have to do more work to prove yourself or speak up to let it be known that you are a contributor when no one else has to. “It’s the little things like being on Zoom calls and other people not knowing — or even trying — to pronounce your name or thinking I can’t even speak English,” Humberto shared.
TFI offers the young men endless benefits and opportunities, from museum tours and community service to writing and SAT prep workshops, the dedication that is needed is helpful and beyond useful in the end. TFI also ensures that the young men focus on their emotional health and well-being. “One of the founding values of TFI is brotherhood, I have two sisters and my mom, I’m surrounded by women and conscious of how they’re treated. TFI breaks down toxic masculinity,” says Humberto.
Humberto now has the travel bug and shared his experience when all cohorts traveled to Costa Rica. “It was an experience I would have never had without TFI, I’m grateful for it because Costa Rica was never on my radar, we were completely immersed in the culture. We saw how they are trying to help with the environment. I went to my homestay and lived with my (host) family. We got to connect with our family, the people in the town, but also working with the other Fellows, we got to bond. We create a brotherhood a TFI.”
Applications for the next cohort are now being accepted for high school sophomores.
Read more from this series:
Part 1: Truth vs. Perception: Representation Matters