JET Daddy: Meet Euclid Williamson
Black fathers. They do not get the respect they deserve in our society, though statistics show they are just as, or more, involved in their children’s lives as their counterparts from other racial backgrounds. But don’t just review the numbers, check out some of the dads JET is profiling in what we hope to become a recurring feature: JET daddy. We are looking for pops that live for their kids and vice versa.
Euclid Williamson may have just one biological son, but is a father to thousands of Chicago inner-city youth. As the founder of Target H.O.P.E., an organization that seeks to enhance educational opportunities for minority youth attending public schools, he is literally changing lives. JET spoke with Williamson about the importance of arming our youth with the proper tools to be role models for future generations.
Name: Euclid Williamson
Hometown: Hayti, MO/Chicago, IL
How many kids? 1 biological son, hundreds of adopted children through Target H.O.P.E.
Kid(s) Name(s), Age(s): Aaron Williamson, 42
JET: What does fatherhood mean to you?
Euclid Williamson: To me, fatherhood means sacrifice, leadership, personal responsibility, kindness, consideration and thoughtfulness and keeping an open mind about the best interest of the child that you’re attempting to cultivate to reach their human and God-given potential.
JET: In addition to your own biological son, you’ve been a father to many. Tell me about that.
Euclid Williamson: Well it’s interesting because I enjoy being a father figure to a lot of children who didn’t really ask for that, but I could tell they needed it. And that has been, you know, the love of my life, too, because I unfortunately didn’t have a chance to have a daughter. So now, I have hundreds and hundreds of daughters who I’m able to talk with & learn from and give knowledge, direction, and supervision to. The world is much different than the world I grew up in, so it’s been interesting to see (students) as young as 14 years old develop and be nurtured by a collective family and ultimately, to become college graduates and do great things in their lives. That’s been very enjoyable for me.
JET: How did you come to “adopt,” if you will, all of these children?
Euclid Williamson: It was not intentional; it was simply, what my mother called “a ministry.” I was exhilarated by the response of the children and how they accepted me. They gravitated towards me and they listened and they contacted me and invited me to participate in special life events, particularly commencement and prom send-offs, birthday celebrations and graduations. These are things that normally the biological father would participate in, but they didn’t have a biological father for the most part. And for those who did have their biological father in their lives, he wasn’t psychologically engaged.
JET: And these relationships have all been formed through your college-prep program, Target HO.P.E. Tell me more.
Euclid Williamson: Yes Target H.O.P.E. It’s very interesting. The program started off as an academic achievement model when I was very much interested in the abysmal CPS [high school] dropout rate. Children drop out of school for many different reasons, such as not having transportation to get to school or not having a nurturing meal, not being protected, dealing with gang intimidation or drugs and substance abuse in the family. Having a social work, case work and counseling background, I was acutely aware of that. So, we wanted to incorporate a mentorship model that addressed those issues. Not to say that we could solve the issues in the family, but we just wanted to make it so that the students can navigate themselves…give them techniques and skills and tools so they can navigate their way through that system and be successful.
JET: And when you say “successful,” what’s your measure of success? How many children would you say you’ve helped in total?
Euclid Williamson: We started in September 1994 at Roosevelt University and we have now sent well over 4,600 students to 28 colleges and universities across the nation. We have procured for our students $115 million in merit-based scholarships. As far as the high school component, from 1994 to 2016, we’ve never lost a student. Our average student graduates (from college) in 4.5 to 5 years. We maintain a 98% success rate, one of the highest in the nation and 42% of our students go on, eventually, to graduate and professional school. We have over 1,000 graduate degrees and we’re going to exceed that in the next year.
JET: What would you say to men who either have adult children or no children at all when it comes to issues plaguing our youth?
Euclid Williamson: I did this for 26 years when I didn’t have kids. I was 26 before I had a kid, so when you see a need like this, since there’s such a shortage of African American men, and there’s such a demand for fathers, surrogate fathers and mentors, I would say for them to get involved. Get involved in community-based organizations like YWCA, Little League, all of this stuff. I grew up with men engaged. I grew up with men who were scout leaders, little league and point league coaches. So what I do today shouldn’t be an anomaly. I was the norm and the product of how I grew up. We as men knew everybody on the block. We knew folks in our community. We had enough sense to correct abhorrent and deviant behavior, and as we saw it, we didn’t turn the other cheek. We faced those issues. But now that’s lost. We don’t know our neighbors. Men are not represented in the church and they don’t have to be. But I say that you really have to be engaged in the community. We have to take on some of those skills and interests and be engaged. Be involved. Touch somebody’s life. Mentor. That’s what I would say to them.
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