With divorce and separation becoming more common, kids aren’t getting the same kind of upbringing they used to. Instead of having both parents to raise them, they may have only a dad or, more frequently, just a mom.
While this isn’t inherently a bad thing (single parents are often very hard-working people), it is important for children to have role models of both sexes.
Additional positive examples may be teachers, grandparents, or other relatives, but many have no significant or consistent role models aside from their parents. That’s why people like Kenyon Lake have stepped up to be that kind of mentor for others.
Growing up, Kenyon Lake’s passion was basketball.
Growing up in Asheville, North Carolina, Kenyon and his father Bennie had one big passion in common: basketball.
Bennie was one of the original Harlem Globetrotters from 1968 to 1972. Kenyon carried on that passion as an all-state high school basketball player in 1996.
In college, Kenyon continued to pursue a career in sports, graduating North Carolina Central University with a degree in Sports Medicine. From there he still followed his father’s path, just not in the way he expected.
Bennie had also been a social worker with the juvenile justice department. This was a career path that Kenyon had little interest in until he returned to his hometown, after a stint playing basketball in Mexico.
Kenyon took on a job as a caseworker for two years. Through that job, he learned about the lack of male social workers, so he stepped into a role with Child Protective Services to meet that need.
Yet he later found his calling as a role model to teen boys.
Over time, he noticed a disturbing trend.
“[It] didn’t matter which area I was in, I started seeing that there were no men in the homes,” Kenyon told Citizen Times back in 2014. “And everywhere I went, all my cases were single moms. And I was like, what’s going on, where are these men at?”
Around this same time, Bennie passed away. This sparked a change in Kenyon, one that would spur him on to be the role model kids needed!
“Once he passed, it was like, you know what? This is an opportunity to step up and do something because there are so many youth who need this,” he said.
The first step was to pass on his dad’s teachings to as many people as possible, writing a book called “My Daddy Taught Me That.” Then, a month later, he started a group named after the book wherein he directly taught and helped local youth.
The “My Daddy Taught Me That” program was funded entirely out of pocket and held at the Pisgah View Community Center, the only place that offered Kenyon free space.
From then on, Kenyon would meet up with a group of 15 to 20 teenage boys twice every week. They’d eat food, laugh, watch inspiring videos on YouTube, and chat with one another.
Often their conversations would get rather heavy, covering topics like the current prison system, and homelessness.
Years later, he continues to serve as a fantastic role model for kids.
Over the years, “My Daddy Taught Me That” has expanded and evolved. A 2018 news story from ABC 13 WLOS revealed that the organization now assist kids with their homework, helps them find jobs, takes them on trips, and provides guest speakers.
The now 41-year-old Kenyon is still in charge and leading teens in discussions. Over the past six years, he has helped over 190 boys, with 50 currently enrolled in the program.
Seeing them grow as people has always been a joy for Kenyon.
“Once a young man is in this program for about a year or longer, the light bulb really starts to come on,” he said.
“They start wanting to make better grades, their behavior changes, they want to start working and looking for employment, they start talking about college, wanting to go to school and better themselves.”
This program had a profound impact on DeAngelo Collins, a recent graduate of Asheville High School.
“This program made me find myself and turn my potential into kinetic energy,” he said. “I always knew I was a leader, but I didn’t know how to be a positive role model. Now that I’ve grown and been in the program several years, I became a better me.”
With big events like the Community Kick-Ball Challenge coming up, it’s safe to say that “My Daddy Taught Me That” won’t be slowing down any time soon!