Nurturing to Achieve Greatness
The word “Kismet” is an Islamic term that refers to something that is “meant to be”. The Kismet of Kings organization believes in nurturing young men to realize their “meant to be” destiny as responsible family members, distinctive contributors to society, and positive community champions.
Kismet of Kings (KOK) serves black and brown male students ages 11-18 in Jersey City, New Jersey. The program engages this population, many of whom are from low income households, in academic and social learning opportunities. KOK seeks out mentors from diverse professional backgrounds including, but not limited to, individuals involved with the legal system, public service, science and medicine, law enforcement, and the private sector. Mentor selection is important because it establishes an inner circle these young men can respect, as well as provides diverse professional role models they can aspire to be.
Young men of color in Jersey City have been adversely affected by crime, socioeconomic and health disparities over decades, and COVID-19 has disproportionately ravaged our black and brown communities. Ongoing, escalating childhood trauma results in an increasingly vulnerable, at-risk youth population. KOK engages vulnerable youth through mentoring and educational programming to introduce them to new possibilities – people, places, cultures, and experiences – and opportunities.
An Aligned KOK and HealthierJC Mentorship Model
The KOK mentoring approach seeks to assist students in engaging in the world around them, educating themselves, envisioning and then executing their dreams. To achieve this, KOK curates meaningful 1:1 mentor/mentee relationships, forming a unique bond between Jersey City boys of color and Jersey City men of color.
These mentoring relationships promote making healthy proactive choices in all aspects of life. The quote, “Intentional living is the art of making our own choices before others’ choices make us,” is applicable here. As an organization, KOK is intentional about helping young Black and Brown males make healthy decisions that will drive healthy behavior and positive outcomes: physically, mentally, and emotionally.
This model closely aligns with HealthierJC goals to build and sustain a culture of health based on fellowship, education, and meaningful mentoring relationships within the Jersey City community. For many young men involved with the KOK organization, mentorship has fostered increased academic success, positive self-image, and a belief in what is possible.
Being of Service During the Pandemic
During the past year, a total of 17 young men primarily from Ward F, were actively involved in the KOK program. Given the myriad of challenges posed by the pandemic, KOK encouraged the boys to give back to the community and support local charitable drives to feed, clothe, and raise funds for Jersey City families struggling in the wake of COVID-19.
In the summer of 2020, KOK made the decision to participate in the Kindness Rock Project www.thekindnessrocksproject.com, a national initiative to cultivate connections within communities through simple acts of kindness – sending messages of hope, love, joy, and peace on simple decorative rocks. KOK felt strongly that this simple ‘kindness rocks’ initiative would be an effective way to connect with Jersey City senior citizens sequestered alone in their homes during the pandemic.
The young KOK mentees were excited about bringing smiles to the faces of seniors in the community and alleviating any feelings of isolation, neglect, or sadness. They worked tirelessly and collectively to create decorative and spiritually uplifting ‘kindness rocks’.
The effort and enthusiasm the boys put into the Kindness Rock Project gained regional recognition in a NJ.com news article when KOK joined forces with Assemblywoman Angela V. McKnight to deliver groceries to Jersey City seniors through her nonprofit AngelaCARES, Inc. Each bag of groceries included ‘kindness rocks’ with heartfelt messages crafted by a KOK young man. The children took pride in knowing they had positively contributed to the distribution of food, smiles, and small meaningful acts of kindness to over 288 Jersey City seniors in need.
Making an Impact…
The Jersey City parents of KOK mentees were asked to reflect on how the KOK mentoring program impacted the lives of their young men. Abridged comments are highlighted below:
“[The] Kismet of Kings… program has been amazing for my son. He has grown in ways that I could have never imagined. I am forever grateful… (h)e has gained independence, structure and leadership skills.”
“…I appreciate the fact that you took the time out to show our sons how to focus on character and leadership development. I also enjoyed the fact that had to wake them up to go do something constructive with their days instead of playing Fortnite lol. Thank you so much for the experience.”
“… my son had an opportunity to experience different things and being around other children in a positive atmosphere. The community needs these types of free programs which encourage our children to be better and do better…”
“…I don’t know how you did it, but he has stopped talking back, he does as he is told and is more respectful, he started getting up and doing his chores without being told. Overall, he’s starting to act more his age and not whine when talking. He speaks! … Thank you…”
For more info about this HealthierJC grantee, please visit the Kismet of Kings website: www.kismetofkings.org/