New mentorship program matches mentors with young black men in Knoxville

Y.O.V.E.M.E.N.T. gains community support, hopes to inspire success.
The new organization plans to match 15 mentors with mentees by the end of January for a pilot program that brings various skills and positive values.
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 9:56 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Building pride along with education and life skills is the way a new mentorship program hopes to inspire young black men in the Knoxville area.

Y.O.V.E.M.E.N.T. is what businessman and founder Robert Williams said is matching young people with others who look like them.

“Y.O.V.E.M.E.N.T. is an acronym for ‘youth obtaining valuable empowering mentorship, encouraging new thinking’,” said Williams.

Williams opened Kutting Kings one year ago on the Cumberland Avenue Strip, proud to bring a black-owned barber shop near the University of Tennessee campus.

He felt inspired to help prevent future violence for other young men like that he saw in the Lonsdale community.

“Not proud, but I am a part of the first generation of gang bangers to come to Knoxville. And I was wise enough to, once I got to a certain age, to walk away from it,” he said.

The new organization plans to match 15 mentors with mentees by the end of January for a pilot program that brings various skills and positive values. It has the support of the community, including the University of Tennessee.

UT’s Vice Chancellor for Diversity & Engagement Tyvi Small, said several mentors will be college students.

“We have lots of students who come from all over who want to give back. Particularly young men of color,” said Small.

He said he was inspired to help because of Williams’ passion for helping others.

“So my concept was to bring the good to the community,” said Williams. “And later on I developed the idea of implementing things like African culture.”

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