KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City organization is helping young men find a new perspective and focus.
High Aspirations has been around for more than 15 years, but now they are starting a new chapter.
An old building sitting on the corner of East 27th and Charlotte streets has a new life and is helping young men get a new outlook on life.
“It’s been transformational for the community, for the neighborhood,” said Henry Wash, president & CEO of High Aspirations.
It’s a mentorship program that focuses on African American youth from 8 to 18 years old. They want to help kids in the community dream big and find the path to get there with the help of mentors they can not only look up to, but also relate to.
“That big dream they’ve had to be a veterinarian. That dream they’ve had to be a great real estate agent,” Wash said. “Someone who wants to aspire to be a lawyer, a surgeon, a doctor.'”
The new space includes a large meeting space for mentors and kids. There’s a large learning kitchen where a meal is prepared for the kids while they’re there free of charge.
They also have a few small rooms for sensitive conversations if kids don’t want to talk about troubles they are going through around others.
The new location cost around $1.5 million between donations and in-kind work. The program is currently serving 70 young men, but they’d like to expand to serve around nearly 300 kids.
To do that they’ll need 40 more mentors.
“I believe too often that a sense of not feeling like someone cares about them, they give them enough attention to be who they are, and I believe that this is the type of space that’s really going to let them do that,” Wash said.
If the kids are doing well in school and meeting the program requirements, they can use the game room. It’s got multiple big screen TVs, a couch to watch Chiefs games, a foosball table, a larger-than-life chess set and a barber chair.
“Every time the Chiefs, they have a game, we’re most definitely going to be in that room watching the game,” Wash said. “So that’s just an incentive for them to do good things and be encouraged and motivated.”
Wash knows the personal benefit and importance of mentorship.
For around 20 years he was mentored himself by Henry Bloch of H&R Block and wishes Bloch were here to see how this facility is helping the community. The center received a donation from the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation.
“Our relationship was very special because this was something that Henry had high hopes for as well,” Wash said. “So just for this to happen, it makes me happy because it would’ve most definitely made him happy if he was still here to see it.”
Marcus Harris is a mentor with High Aspirations. He said they need more help, and it’s brought a lot of light into his life.
“It was a higher calling,” Harris said. “It was a chance to not just think about yourself. To be a mentor is going to cost you different things whether that’s time, effort, energy. That’s what it’s about is giving. Mentoring is about giving. Giving that energy, and effort, and focus.”
“We hope that they will come back, and they will mentor our community, and they can help make the world a better place,” Wash said.
This Saturday, High Aspirations is holding an open house at their E. 27th Street location from 10 a.m. to noon. Mentors and children are welcome to attend.
To be a part of the High Aspirations program you need to be enrolled in school and be 8 to 18 years of age. You are asked to bring a grade card when you come.