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Mentoring Matters: Florida Professor Faces Ups & Downs With Mentoring

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A South Florida professor is sharing some of the realities of being a mentor and how, like everything, it has its up and downs.

Dr. William Ashanti Hobbs is a professor at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. He loves to teach English and writing to college students but after spending time with him you quickly learn mentoring is what's truly in his heart

"It started with my younger brother. My parents divorced when I was 15 and he was 10. My father moved two blocks away. It was interesting, to say the least," said Hobbs. "I went off to attend Florida A&M University. He stayed back with them in Atlanta. We were best friends so he was like you can't leave, you can't leave and I'm like 'I've got to go to school and I'm moving in with grandma and she doesn't have any more space.'"

Hobbs explained, "He couldn't wait. He started selling drugs to get his own apartment and be his own man as he would say and within about four months of me getting my own place, they found his car at a local mall. The keys were on the dashboard. It smelled like bleach and no one has heard of him since….It's been 22 years now."

Ever since then, Dr. Hobbs has made it his mission to mentor young people.

"Whenever I see one slipping through the cracks, I see my brother. He's in a lot of what I do. I even named my boys after him," said Hobbs.

As a professor, he says he also knows exactly where to find the students who need mentoring the most. Dr. Hobbs

"When I teach my classes, I teach to the back row. They are playing on their phone. They have been beaten down enough in K-12 to know enough not to say anything. They just want to get through whatever getting through is," said Hobbs. "I don't stay behind a desk. I'm walking up and down the aisles….next thing you know they are hanging around my office and I can't get rid of them. It's what it's all about."

Dr. Hobbs first started mentoring while teaching at Virginia State University.

"They hooked me up with this little kid and he was just amazing and I had a year's experience with him and his family, made a huge impact. I'm still in touch with him til this day," said Hobbs.

The experience touched his heart so much that it inspired him to write 'North of the Grove.' In the book, he reveals the challenges of mentoring a young boy living in the inner city. The book is part of the Miami-Dade Schools curriculum.

"Here's this middle-class man telling this little boy that you don't have to fight all the time. Use your wits, talk and this little boy is like, 'you don't understand where I am from. No one talks and you live over here with me for a couple of days and I want to see what happens to you,'" said Hobbs.

Dr. Hobbs admits it can be messy at times.

"The mother is like you can't come back yet…there is shooting outside and you can hear it in the background...and you are sitting up there stunned and I didn't know what to do," said Hobbs.

Hobbs hopes potential mentors can learn from his experiences in the book and still be willing to give back. He strongly believes mentors can save lives.

"It re-introduces you to your own beliefs as an adult. It reintroduces your community to helping. You don't have to adopt someone overnight. It can be baby steps. It really enriches your life. That's the best way I can put it," said Hobbs. "Our own ambitions are so myopic, so selfish. How many times can you look at yourself in the face and talk about yourself."

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