Danielle Boothe was told jobs in her chosen field were difficult to find, so she created one to benefit not just herself, but youth as well.
Empress and Emperor Mentoring Inc. is a program designed to help middle school students gain confidence through sports and health education.
Boothe, 24, is the Chief Executive Officer and creator of the nonprofit organization. She said was inspired to create the mentoring program upon graduating from the University of Memphis.
“I was a sports and leisure management student,” Boothe said. “When I graduated, everyone kept telling me, ‘you know sports industry is such a hard field to break into.’ But before I entered my career, I wanted to give back to the community and our youth to share with them what I have learned.”
Boothe said she felt like today’s youth are labelled as troubled and many may not have proper guidance, so she created Empress and Emperor Mentoring Inc. to help with the need.
Her nonprofit uses sports and the students’ Physical Education class to address character, good sportsmanship and living an active healthy life.
“We talk about team work, hygiene, sex, how to respect themselves, how to not let media depict how they act and self-love; the type of subjects pre-teens need to know about,”Boothe said. “We do three separate sports for the guys and three different sports for the guys.”
“I wanted to teach the kids, you’re doing more than just putting a ball into a basket. You can learn things about yourself from these sports,” she added.
Currently, the program’s focus is on middle school aged girls and boys; however, Boothe’s said her original concepts were designed strictly for the mentoring of young women.
“The young men used to come and ask me. 'Ms. Boothe, why don’t you come and get us; we have stuff we want to talk about to,’” she said. “From there I realized, I was going to have to do something for the young men because they need it just as much.”
She said she initially had reservations because she could not relate to the young men on the same level that she could the young women. She then made the decision to add make mentors to her program to help with the development of young men.
With a program that addresses the top of sex and personal hygiene, Boothe said she wanted to take the proper precautions by sending out permission slips and letters with the mission of the program.
“I do think it’s a more interactive way to talk about health because a lot Shelby County Schools have cut out health class,” Boothe said. “I work through the P.E. class, which generally only talks about sports. They have many a sex week, when they go in and talk about everything. This make them focus on health. Your mind, body, and spirit all being healthy.”
Boothe said she talked directly to parents, most of them having a positive response to the mentoring program.
“I work directly with the P.E. coach, he’s even told me that he has seen improvements with some of the students,” Boothe said. “We’re working at Raleigh Egypt right now, it took a lot of the kids awhile to warm up.”
Before starting Empress and Emperor Mentoring Inc., she said she had never been to Raleigh Egypt Middle School and had heard little about it. With Boothe not being familiar to the students, some of them were not as willing to open up.
“Some of [the students] are a little difficult and have their attitudes, but they are attentive and they listen,” said Traydacia Love, 24, a regular Empress mentor. “We can see small changes in them but that’s what it takes; one small change to make another and it becomes a ripple effect.”
Boothe said she is very selective when choosing mentors for her program because she wants to make sure they will be the “right fit” for the students. She has gotten many requests through her Facebook account with people wanting to help, but she prefers to keep the mentoring team small.
Love said Boothe’s selections have so far been successful with the students.
“They love the mentors,” she said. “They love asking us [questions] about us.”
Love said mentoring the children has not only been beneficial for the students, but for the mentors as well.
“Going over the lessons require me to look within to be sure I am displaying the same habits we try to teach them,” Love said. “It’s very humbling. Speaking to them helps me to realize, I’m not perfect; I’m still growing and learning right along with them.”
Love said has struggled with public speaking, however, mentoring has helped her to feel more comfortable in front of a crowd.
“They are young, but they are people too,” Love said. “They struggle with situations just as adults do.”
Love and Boothe both say they have learned a new level of compassion from mentoring the students.
Boothe wants to expand her program to other middle schools and ultimately a high school program.
Her mission is to teach students that “you’re an emperor and empress, you are the ruler of your own destiny!”