By Todd Cohen
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Gerard Truesdale and Arturo McKie started hanging out together at age 3 and were schoolmates in middle-school and in the ninth grade at Greensboro Day School.
In both their families, they say, it was expected they would go to college and graduate.
“Our parents made it clear our education was not an option, it was a necessity,” says McKie, a 2008 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who now works in Charlotte as resolve applications specialist for Emdeon, a health-care company.
He and Truesdale, a 2007 graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta who holds a master’s degree in library and information science from N.C. Central University and is pursuing a second master’s degree in information systems at NCCU, now are trying to give high-school students in Greensboro the lessons they received about the value of education.
In 2009, Truesdale and McKie formed Crossroads: Pathways to Success, a Greensboro nonprofit that encourages young men to succeed in high school and successfully pursue a college education.
The mission of the organization is to “develop young men into productive leaders of our community, stressing education, personal development and community service,” says John R. Rich, executive director for investments at Oppenheimer & Co. in Greensboro and the all-volunteer nonprofit’s treasurer.
Operating with an annual budget of roughly $12,000 to $15,000, Crossroads has served 42 kids, including 12 that stayed with the program all four years of high school.
Many of the kids are enrolled in high schools that have mainly minority students or where a big share of the students are eligible for free lunches.
From noon to 4 p.m. every other Saturday from August through June, roughly 10 to 15 high-school boys attend Crossroads, which operates in space donated by Providence Baptist Church on Tuscaloosa Street.
Truesdale and McKie recruit students by visiting high schools, attending educational events, and passing out pamphlets at barbershops and other venues.
The first 90 minutes of each program consists of tutoring or a talk by a guest speaker, followed by 90 minutes in the gym and then an hour of lunch and conversation.
The curriculum focuses on topics related to education, with some of the programming geared to all the students, and some of it tailored to each high-school grade.
Freshmen, for example, learn basic communication skills, including effective writing and proper speech, while sophomores learn about preparing for college, and juniors and seniors work on preparing their college applications and get advice on how to be successful in college.
Students also volunteer for community-service projects, in part to help build their resumes, and participate in college tours led by Truesdale, Crossroads’ executive director, and McKie, its program director.
Juniors, for example, focus on identifying the kind of career they might want to pursue, finding a college that best fits their career interests, and visiting some of those colleges.
“We talk about the importance of college readiness” throughout the program, McKie says.
Now, Crossroads wants to expand.
The group aims to raise $30,000 to $50,000 in 2012 so it can move to a larger facility that can handle more students, hire tutors to teach the students one-on-one about writing and math, hire staff and possibly add programs in other communities, Truesdale says.
He says that he and McKie have covered most of the group’s costs with their own contributions, and also have secured foundation grants.
“We would like to expand,” he says, “and we definitely need help.”