PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Joe Hansley served his country for 15 years. Now, he's serving his community.
He walks into a school in Portsmouth every weekday morning, hoping to make a difference in a student's life. "Us out here, even as adults, without a mentor is like an explorer without a map," Hansley said.
"Our kids are [listening to] this rap music... and looking at these gangs, and those are the people that they looking up to," said Hansley. "We try to bring in people that look like them, that had similar upbringings as them, and they can see that they can make it."
Hansley retired from his career in the US Navy in 2015, but he said he knew his work was far from over. Now, he inspires at-risk youth through the Joe Lee Hansley Foundation, which he created in 2005 to pay it forward. "When I was in alternative school, I had somebody to come in and mentor me and that was kind of the groundbreaking of the Joe Lee Hansley Foundation," said Hansley. "We need to be that positive influence in those kids' lives to make this world a better place."
The Joe Lee Hansley Foundation awards scholarships to students and encourages them to give back. Some of the foundation's mentees say it also exposes them to opportunities outside of their neighborhood. I.C. Norcom High School junior Jalek O'Neal said Hansley "gave me an opportunity to go to Ohio with him and tour a good school." Junior Jaylin Ray said he will "try to stick to [Hansley] as much as possible so he can get me to places where I wanna go." Another junior, Jaden Frederick, said Hansley is "somebody that wants to see us succeed in life."
Hansley hopes to lead by example, showing the next generation how to talk the talk and walk the walk. "It's not just about us. It's about the community as a whole, and it's about giving back," Hansley said.
The Joe Lee Hansley Foundation wants to take a group of students on a five-college campus tour next month, but they need your help. They're asking for your support as a sponsor of the trip, and they say every little bit helps. For more information, call 912-574-1905, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or click here.