Nikkia D. Matthews / Founder & CEO of Purposeful YOUth Detroit
The Founder of Purposeful YOUth Detroit: A Change Agent Addressing Social Issues
The Founder and CEO of the mentoring program, Purposeful YOUth Detroit, is none other than Detroit native Nikkia D. Matthews. Ms. Matthews left Detroit to attend Howard University in Washington D.C., where she received her undergraduate degree in Human Development. Initially, she majored in Architecture, but her calling was to address social issues, while giving back to the community. She is aware the combination of the two led her to become the Change Agent she defines herself to be at this moment. Ms. Matthews returned to Detroit after graduating Howard because she knew Detroit needed her talents. She also felt the Motor City could benefit from her dedication to making a difference for today’s youth.
The Mission Behind Purposeful YOUth Detroit
After returning home, she pursued her Masters Degree in Social Work at Wayne State University. The arduous work on various papers and presentations while in school provided insight and stemmed the brainchild called Purposeful YOUth Detroit. The program is offered to young ladies ages six to eighteen years old. She stated, “Our mission is to build strong and confident young women who can grow up to be audacious leaders in the community.” Some of the key objectives of the program are to enhance social skills, build leadership qualities, improve self-esteem, and promote self-confidence. While enriching one’s skillset in the program, young ladies will enhance their qualities to becoming entrepreneurs and learn proper social etiquette. In addition, the program stresses the importance of community outreach. Ms. Matthews founded the Million Shoe March: Shoes for Soles in Need Community Shoe Drive a few years ago. People from various states, including California and New York, donated over 5,000 pairs of shoes over the last three years to give to families that may not be able to afford them. The shoes were strategically placed along a major street in Detroit, and people were able to try on and choose their own shoes. Matthews indicated the girls cried as they saw how people’s lives were touched because they were able to obtain a pair of shoes. She told me one homeless man said the boots he chose would help him through the entire winter. Ultimately, the goal is to collect 500,000 pairs of shoes to distribute for the event in the future.
The program has a broader focus than enriching the lives of youth. In addition, Purposeful YOUth Detroit extends the services to the parents of children participating in the program. The support given to the parents is beneficial. Matthews has witnessed mothers return to school because of the confidence they gained. One mother who returned to school for nursing will graduate this summer with her Associates Degree in Nursing. There have been instances where mothers will approach Matthews, informing her they applied for a promotion on their job. Even if they didn’t receive the promotion, they were satisfied with taking a leap of faith and stepping out of their comfort zone.
The program has existed the past three years. Participants are expected to complete the 10-month curriculum and adhere to the attendance policy that ensures the girls complete success and attainment of the skills offered. During the first year, the program was free. The cost is now $200.00 for the year, which equals $20.00 per session for each participant, Matthews explained. If someone is facing financial hardship, program subsidies are offered. Parents should be willing to contribute a small amount to guarantee mentees and parents are serious about their participation. Upon successfully completing the first year of the program, there is a promotional ceremony called the Debutante Ball. The attendees will then continue to progress on to the next year.
Overcoming Tragedy led to Finding a Purpose to Help Others Find their Strength
Matthews shared her story of struggling with her own self-esteem during the ages of ten to eleven years of age. She was a victim of sexual abuse for a significant amount of time during her youth. Dealing with awkwardness and identity issues were only a few barriers she faced while attending middle school. The emotions of being violated and feeling uncomfortable around others were hurdles she had to tackle throughout her adolescent stage. Those around her felt the vibes of her anger and frustration. To add to the suffering, she was bullied by her peers. Matthews would walk with her eyes focused on the ground, instead of facing toward the sky. At an early age, she never envisioned her transformation to becoming a strong woman, whose purpose would be to encourage others to feel empowered and become successful.
Despite her obstacles, she withstood the negative situations she encountered in life. Throughout time, Matthews befriended mentors, who helped her discover the courage she needed to become stronger. One of her greatest inspirations was her Aunt Rita, who resided in Washington D.C. At age 13, she had the opportunity to reside with her for six weeks during the summer. Matthews described her Aunt Rita as, “…somebody who loved unconditionally, and through a very rough period in my life, from I think about ten to sixteen, she was everything, and I understood the importance of having a mentor, so she’s one reason I’m passionate about mentoring.” She also acknowledges the prominent women in her church gave her guidance and helped influence her decision to become a mentor. Outside her inner circle, she also attributes observing public figures, such as Iyanla Vanzant, Michelle Obama, and the late Maya Angelou to having a positive impact on her life.
Recognizing Her Achievements and the Steps to Get There
Matthews believes one of her greatest achievements is Purposeful YOUth Detroit. She is also grateful for other accomplishments, such as her education and the ability to network with other individuals who want to make a difference in society. She believes working with other individuals has empowered her to help build a strong community. The mentor also reflected on past failures, which was her inability to build strong trusting relationships with men and taking a little longer to achieve her accomplishments in life. She had to realize it was imperative to get rid of toxic relationships to obtain growth.
In the interview, she mentioned a few steps that assisted her in achieving important goals. First, she indicated you should never stop dreaming. Second, she believes it is a requirement to have a concrete vision plan with the results in mind. Most important, you must try to execute the plan by having tangible goals and realistic time frames with deadlines. During the process, talk to people who can help you achieve your goals. Finally, develop affirmation statements to help build the confidence you need to succeed with your visions and goals.
Sound Advice for Anyone Planning to Start an Organization
The beginning phase to any vision can be daunting. For example, one of the initial challenges Purposeful Youth Detroit faced was not having their 501c3 exempt status. She felt she missed out on countless opportunities for funding. Most funders are interested in data, data, and more data. This lesson has prepared her to reinvent herself and plan for future funding sources. Matthews offered sound advice for someone starting on this journey of building a viable program. First, have a strong mission statement. Second, determine the population you would like to serve. Ask yourself who you want to help in the community. Third, find the mute button to naysayers. “Then, I suggest they get the mute button; find out who in your camp are naysayers, the ones who are going to tell you it’s impossible…the ones who always have an obstacle to throw in your way; learn how to hit that mute button.” Next, find a mentor who will support you. This individual should not feel threatened by your growth or feel like a competitor. Your mentor should be able to listen, while offering ideas and suggestions to help you plan and prepare for your future and success. The fifth suggestion is being willing to marry your vision. Be committed to the vision. Matthews told me you can have friendly reminders related to your vision by placing it on your walls throughout your home, under your pillow, or in a notebook. The final suggestion she stresses is you must stay focused.
The Big Vision Requires Taking a Breath of Self-Confidence
The Successful Mentor is preparing herself for a greater future. Within ten years, she hopes to write books and become a world-renowned motivational speaker. Her means of empowering other women is to “help women understand their power is limitless.” One of Matthews’ most notable statements in the interview is: “Be willing to breathe your vision.” Know it is possible to achieve your goal of starting a meaningful organization that will change the community. Clear the air of negativity and don’t get smothered by doubt. Yes, get ready to breathe in a fresh air of self-confidence as you exhale the results of success!
For additional information on how to volunteer your time or make a financial contribution to Purposeful YOUth Detroit please go to their website @ http://www.pydetroit.com
-Let your heart be full of new ventures that will lead you to the possibilities of limitless conversations!