Portsmouth nonprofit guides children to success through mentorship

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Our children are the future. So, we have to expose them to life experiences that will put them on the path to success. That’s the goal of the nonprofit Joe Lee Hansley Foundation in Portsmouth.

In order for children to know what they’re capable of, you have to show them they have choices.
Joe Hansley tells WAVY.com his organization takes local children to tour college campuses across the country. Some of the kids have never even left the Southside.

“You know, we had a group of kids that we [were] going on a trip with and we [were] under the tunnel, and they asked, ‘What was that?’ It kind of hurt, but at the same time, it showed us that what we’re doing is very much needed,” Hansley said.

One of the organization’s participants, Jonathan Pierce, just graduated from IC Norcom in Portsmouth. He’s going to Morgan State in the fall, but he says he never would have known the university was right for him had it not been for the Joe Lee Hansley Foundation.

“I actually got there and was able to see how the campus was, the environment, the people, the faculty. Everything was just like, I didn’t know what I was missing out on and you don’t get that much on a website or a virtual tour until you’re actually there for yourself,” Pierce said.

Joe Lee Hansley Foundation Mentors

Another big part of the foundation’s mission is mentorship.

“We try to bring in people that look like them and that’s on a career path or are already doing a career in something that they want to do. So we can expose them and get them to seeing what success looks like,” Hansley said.

The foundation also wants to make sure children are exposed to a large number of different career options.

“We might have somebody that’s inspired to be a plumber because a plumber come in and said, ‘With the right clientele you can make $150,000.’ You know, everybody want to be a lawyer or a doctor because they think that’s what makes the most money, but hard work and dedication is what we push to make sure that each and every young person can be anything that they want to.”

A mentor teaching children a proper handshake.

Hansley says it’s imperative for children to understand they can be successful, and they deserve that success. Oftentimes, they just need to see the proof.

“You need to have positive role models. You need to be around the right people. If you’re the smartest person in your circle, you need to expand your circle. Things that we teach our young people, you know, the sky’s the limit.”

The Joe Lee Hansley Foundation also hands out scholarships every year. Hansley says his organization handed out $180,000 to kids last year.

If you would like to donate to help this foundation continue its mission, click here.

The foundation also plans to hold a scholarship gala Aug. 1, if it is safe to do so. For full details on the event, click here.

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