[meet] Earnest Alexander from Youth Horizons
One of the great things about writing for verb [ICT] is meeting new people. Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the most inspirational men in Wichita, Earnest Alexander. Earnest is the co-founder of Youth Horizons, an organization serving to mentor at-risk youth.
When I arrived at the Youth Horizons office on east Douglas, I was greeted by warm staff members who led me to the office Earnest shares with his longtime assistant, Willa Gale. Willa, who describes herself as Earnest’s biggest fan, was excited to show me a recently published interview with the popular Christian publication World Magazine. It seems the good word is spreading about Earnest and how he managed to turn a Bible study coffee shop (originally The Dandelion Club) into an organization helping troubled teens through mentoring and residential care services.
When you meet Earnest in person, he is a commanding presence. Standing over 6 feet tall with a booming voice and contagious laugh, it’s easy to see why he’s such a popular minister and guest speaker. He’s engaging and eager to talk about his strong commitment to helping children reach their full potential in a safe, loving environment. Earnest discusses the purpose of Youth Horizons, “to break the cycle of fatherlessness.” Earnest was raised in Selma, Alabama, as one of seven children raised by a single mother. Though his mother worked hard to provide for her family, she couldn’t fill the void left by his father. Earnest mentions the cycle of fatherlessness many times during our interview.
As an internationally known gospel singer who traveled with the Singing Quakers and later performed in cities across Europe, Earnest could’ve pursued fame and fortune. Instead, he heeded the call to worship and mentoring. When I asked why he chose to call Wichita home, he said he felt like Wichita had chosen him. Since coming to Kansas to attend college many years ago, he said he always felt embraced by Wichita and how supportive the community has been. Earnest is trying to give back to the community by helping at-risk youth become productive members of society.
On the Youth Horizons website, the mission statement is very clear, “To empower children and families. . . to mentor and encourage at-risk youth. . . to create a nationwide awareness of the needs of at-risk youth.” In Wichita, Youth Horizons is seeking to accomplish that mission in three very specific ways.
Mentors: Open to boys and girls, this program matches children/teens with an adult mentor for personal one-on-one time.
Kinloch Price Boys Ranch: This residential program located in Valley Center accepts boys who need out-of-home placement.
Speaking Engagements: Youth Horizons works closely with Wichita-area schools, churches and civic organizations, giving presentations to educate the public about the specific needs of at-risk youth.
Earnest knows children are a product of their environment. At Youth Horizons, they help families grow and heal by offering parenting classes. This is particularly helpful for parents with a child living in the residential program who must be reintegrated back in the home. Earnest tells the story of a teen who excelled at the Kinloch ranch, only to fall back in to negative behavior patterns once he came home. The boy told him, “You fixed me, you didn’t fix who you sent me home to.”
Earnest said Youth Horizons is always looking for kind, responsible men and women who are willing to take training classes and pass the requirements needed to be successful mentors. Youth Horizons also accepts volunteers to work in their administrative offices, monetary donations, clothes and other supplies.
If you or someone you know would like more information about Youth Horizons, please call 316-262-8293 or visit their website.