OK for Youth foster teens learn from Jocelyn Dorsey


Dec. 2010 – The annual holiday party held in early December for teens and their mentors in the Opportunity Knocks for Youth program was true to form for the seven-year-old nonprofit. Some 65 foster teens, many decked out in coats and ties, along with their mentors enjoyed dinner at the Paper Mill Grill in East Cobb and heard some interesting life lessons from WSB-TVs Jocelyn Dorsey.

The seven-time, Emmy award-winning journalist and first female African-American television anchor in Atlanta told the young people attending that once you accept certain facts you can move on, without resentment, to achieve your goals. “Life is hard,” she said. “It’s hard for everyone.” Dorsey also said that education is the most important thing the teens could focus on at this time in their lives.

Through volunteer mentor relationships the program focuses on the importance of education and responsibility to foster and other special teens. The organization offers monthly workshop/dinners, cultural field trips, service projects and inspirational speakers in addition to the highly successful one-on-one mentor relationships.

In addition to the speaker, the volunteer of the year prize was awarded to mentor Steve Gunning. “Although we do these things out of compassion and not for recognition, Gunning said, “I appreciate the award very much.” His mentee graduated from high school in the spring and Gunning is asking for another mentee. He believes he and the recent graduate will work well together in guiding another young mentee.
High school graduation is a significant accomplishment. “Less than 20% of foster children graduate from high school,” Executive Director Dale Champion said. “This year OK4Youth participants celebrated a 75% graduation rate with many pursuing higher education.” Preparation for the workforce is another objective of the program when higher education is not the young person’s choice.  

“We are not as large as a Boys or Girls Club,” said Champion, “but the size of our organization has a lot to do with its success. The close-knit community we have built of some 25 mentors and our at-risk teens creates a kind of ‘village’ for these kids.” Although the OK mentors include some women, most of them are men, adding an additional value to the lives of the youth, whose foster and group homes are primarily run by women.

The program partners with Mt. Bethel U.M.C., Cobb County Department of Family and Children Services, and Cobb County schools. For more information please contact Dale Champion at 678/641-1968, dchamp50@aol.com, or www.ok4youth.org.