First year mentor Charles Wynn was born in Syracuse, New York, but his family moved to Toledo, Ohio when he was in sixth grade and he had to make all new friends. He was also subject to culture shock because he moved from an all-black neighborhood to one which is predominately white. He says, “It helped me out in life,” though. “It taught me that the world is bigger than your community.”
Charles describes himself as a friendly kid who loved to play sports. He is the youngest of four siblings, which he says was always a pro. “I got everything I needed… [and] there were a lot of mistakes I didn’t have to go through.” But, like most kids, Charles wanted to grow up, and having three older siblings only made the urge stronger.
Out of high school, Charles received a full athletic scholarship to play football for Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He says college is a place where you meet lifelong friends and “you really find out more about yourself.” He graduated with a degree in general studies, which for him encompassed multicultural education, physical education, religious education, and criminal justice.
Charles played well enough for the football team to make himself an NFL prospect in 2005. He had an agent and worked out with several teams. But as he was focused on that, he didn’t take school as serious. He failed to graduate on time and ended up finishing with online courses in 2007. So, for all you athletes out there, Charles is here to remind you that it doesn’t always work out. “The only guarantee and the only thing you control is your degree,” he says. Take care of that first.
Since college, Charles has been working on and off for universities and colleges in an admissions role. He helps high school students and older adults enroll in post-secondary schools. Charles wants to stay in the education field and right now he is trying to get into juvenile justice. He would like to work in a youth group home or a detention center for youth.
Charles found out about Cabrini Connections like so many others do: through a Google search. He was looking to get involved as a volunteer because, “I don’t like seeing the world the way it is,” he says plainly. “It’s important for people to care more,” and so far Charles has cared a lot! He works with Marvin Burks on Thursday nights who continues to open up more and more each week.
Marvin said up front that he wanted to work on his reading, so Charles has been putting together weekly reading assignments about Black history. “I feel like, in school, black kids never learn about themselves,” he says. “I want him to know, ‘Your history is 12 months of the year, not just one.’
Charles likes that we promote unity among the students, allowing them to make new friends, and he likes our workplace analogies. For the 2010-2011 tutoring and mentoring year, we began referring to Cabrini Connections as a job. 6-8pm is your shift, signing in is like clocking in, SVHATS is like clocking out, and so on. Charles recognizes this as a good parallel because, “There’s a lot to life that isn’t plain as day.” There are a lot of soft skills which go into being a successful adult.
Charles’s advice for the youth is to take advantage of all resources and be vocal. He says there are no dumb questions and, “Don’t be ashamed to voice your opinion.” Perhaps someone will have some questions for you, Charles. Congratulations on being in the spotlight!