Making Your Mark: Coming home to inspire kids

13News Now LaSalle Blanks has the details

NORFOLK, VA (WVEC-TV) -- Na'eem Wilkins isn't having a typical college summer break. He's back home where he grew up -- giving back to the children and teenagers who occupy the playgrounds and ball fields that he used to enjoy back in the day at the Sumler Terrace Apartments in the Berkley section of Norfolk. 

"I had my childhood here," Na'eem said. "It taught me respect, discipline."

Na'eem loved it so much, that he decided to do something valuable for the kids there now with his summer break from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

"I love this neighborhood," he said. "I am a product of my environment. This is my neighborhood. I carry it wherever I go."

Na'eem became the director of the Always Up Summer Reading Enrichment Program. He says it's fallen by the wayside lately, so he came back and revitalized it -- pumping it with new energy. When we were there, we saw kids reading books aloud to each other and clapping for each other when they were done. They also engaged in a group workout routine. The key to the program is to be strong body and soul.

And that's not all, he brings in mentors like business owners to show the kids they can dream big, as long as they work hard for those dreams.

He's also had police officers drop by to interact with the kids to build more positive relationships.

And, he's taken them to area college campuses to spark something in their young minds.

"It's imperative that I plant the seeds to our youth and what college can do for them," he said. "Just yesterday alone we went to a citywide college campus tour of Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University, Tidewater Community College. College has really brought me to a better life."

And that's what he says this summer is all about ...for the kids. 

"Our youth need to be exposed to the possibilities of what takes place in the world and that they can be future leaders of the world."

Na'eem is set to graduate in December and then, take on the world himself. 

PHOTOS: Coming home to inspire kids


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