In honor of Black History Month, members of the Sigma Pi Phi Education Committee, in conjunction with the National Mentoring Foundation, hosted a special mentoring workshop on Friday, Feb. 24, for a select group of African-American male student leaders at Westfield High School.
The afternoon workshop covered a range of topics, from professional image, etiquette and dress, to academic achievement skills, workforce leadership skills, and college and career selection.
“I’m so excited about this opportunity for our young men,” said Westfield Principal Laura Hunter, “and for these men, these leaders, to see our Westfield students – to showcase our school so they can see the quality of students that we have here. It’s just really exciting.”
Sigma Pi Phi, an invitation-only professional fraternity, was founded in 1904 to help Black men build careers of distinction, achieve their highest potential, and in turn serve their communities. The organization represents some of the country’s highest-achieving African-American males and consists of many top Black physicians, attorneys, CEOs, and executives both in the Houston area and nationwide. The group’s national mentoring program, called the Boulé Scholars, is dedicated to the advancement of African-American male students through scholarships and mentoring programs.
One speaker on the program was a familiar face, first-year Westfield psychology and sociology teacher Jordan Williams, who grew up in the Spring area and attended some Spring ISD schools, including Bammel Middle School and Dekaney High School.
“I’m so thrilled to be here with you all,” Williams said, “and I charge each and every one of you all to get to know one of the mentors here so that way you can build that network.”
The group of Westfield student leaders invited to the event was kept small, in order to allow each student in attendance to visit one-on-one with the mentors who took part in the workshop. The men in the room representing Sigma Pi Phi brought an impressive collection of degrees and a wealth of professional experience from their careers in business, medicine, law, education, science and engineering.
Many expressed how important mentoring young people and students was for them personally, including Michael Murphy, a Houston-based trial lawyer and a partner at Winston & Strawn LLP.
“It’s incredibly important to me,” Murphy said. “I grew up in a single-parent home in rural North Carolina. I never thought that any of the degrees of success you see represented here would be possible. And so, when I imagine myself in their shoes, and see just how appreciative they are and how ambitious they are, I really owe it to them to give them motivation, and to be a source of guidance and inspiration.”
Williams echoed that, telling the Westfield students how much mentoring had impacted him and supported him in refining his educational and career goals and in making it through challenges.
“You can’t get to that mountaintop without going through the valley,” Williams told students. “Throughout my life, I have been through the ups and downs. I just want you to know that it doesn’t matter how far away you are from your goals, that you can get there.”
Westfield sophomore Zion Badia said it felt great to be invited to take part in the event. He had a chance to work one-on-one with Murphy, and the two chatted about the importance of a firm handshake, setting challenging goals, and always carrying himself with pride.
“I found out sometimes I’ve got to do better,” Badia said. “He told me to keep my expectations high.”
Westfield junior Demarion Hadnot said he also came away from the short mentoring sessions with some actionable advice about how to approach the remainder of his junior year and the beginning of his senior year to help ensure his success down the road.
“Start your career early and invest in what you need,” Hadnot recounted. “Don’t wait, and don’t be afraid to fail. Just keep trying again.”
Williams himself was a mentee of Dr. Ron Kelley, a distinguished educator and member of Sigma Pi Phi, who now leads the National Mentoring Foundation, based in San Antonio, and who mentored Williams when he was a student at Trinity University.
“I call it the blueprint,” Kelley said of his approach to mentoring. “I think just motivation in general doesn’t give you enough. I always say you have to give young men a blueprint. You have to say, ‘This is not necessarily the only path to take, but this one will work for you.’”
Jesse Tyson, former president of ExxonMobil Inter-America and former president and CEO of the National Black MBA Association, also spoke to the students, explaining to them why he and the others had come.
“We may be gone when you guys are running the country or when you guys are running businesses, but we want to invest in you because, one day, somebody invested in us,” Tyson said, indicating himself and his fellow mentors. “These guys are smart, but they didn’t get to where they are by themselves. Someone poured into their lives, and we have a responsibility to do the exact same with you.”
“You are a message to a time that we won’t see.”