Selwyn Q. Bachus, senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church, knows what it is like to have a mentor.
Bachus lived in a religious, two-parent household, but he says a Korean War veteran took an interest in mentoring him while growing up.
“One of the things he always said to me was is that I needed to get my education,” he says. “So, I didn't have to experience some of the hard work that he did.”
Years later, the pastor is asking his congregation to step up and provide guidance to young black boys.
Bachus is also preaching to himself.
He mentors Damien Alexander, a sophomore student at Millard North High School.
“It's like good having someone there that I can depend on and talk to like whenever,” Alexander says. “I can call him on his cell phone which is really weird because he's a pastor at like such a great church. So for him to give up his time like that – it is really amazing.”
Fifteen minutes of conversation are sprinkled here and there, Alexander says, and sometimes Bachus will have lunch with him and his friends at Millard North.
In an area filled with the highest poverty and crime rates in Omaha, the local chapter of 100 Black Men says the call must be answered. By the end of this year, program leaders say they hope to have 300 mentors for its Leadership and Mentoring Academy. Nearly a hundred mentees are in the academy and officials say the enrollment list is growing.
Bachus, who closely works with the organization, hopes Sunday's outreach inspires men to sign up.
“The fact is that there are young men who need the time and input and investment of a person's like myself,” says the pastor. “We're not asked to raise another child. Just to invest some time in their lives.”
When the early morning worship service concluded, Alexander says the congregation’s response to mentor young men counter-attacked misconceptions of North Omaha.
“All the stereotypes in our community [are] like black men are so self-concerned and they don't help anyone out,” Alexander says. “But, like, there was a line early outside signing up. There was so many men out there.”