Hood II Hood mentorship program honoring 12 men who 'live up to that father name' (2024)

Hood II Hood mentorship program honoring 12 men who 'live up to that father name' (1)

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CHAMPAIGN — Sunday will be especially significant for Jordan Simmons and his young family.

Simmons will be among 12 local fathers honored by Hood II Hood in a Father’s Day ceremony outside the mentorship organization’s Champaign headquarters.

It’s an honor Simmons — a local pastor like his father, Larry — will celebrate with his wife, Kristen, and son, Joshua, who is four months shy of his third birthday.

Hood II Hood mentorship program honoring 12 men who 'live up to that father name' (2)

“I’m very honored to be a part of it,” Simmons said. “It’s really a blessing and an honor to be seen as a leading father in my community.”

Jordan and Kristen credit each other for getting through a challenging pregnancy in the months leading up to Joshua’s birth on Oct. 9, 2021.

Before that day — about six weeks before Kristen’s due date — Kristen had battled leukemia after it was discovered during a pregnancy screening.

Doctors weighed whether an abortion would be best for Kristen’s health.

“He’s a miracle child,” Jordan said. “And we just thank God. He’s 2 years old now and perfectly healthy and everything.”

Faith played an important role in helping the couple through those trying months, which included visits to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

“It was definitely our faith and the peace of God that got us through it,” Kristen said. “It was a very strange thing, and it is something that the typical person, it would kind of flip their world upside-down. Because our faith is so strong in God, we really trust in Him, and He was faithful through it all. So we now have this opportunity to raise this beautiful son. We’re incredibly grateful for it.”

Kristen is still going through treatments today, though chemotherapy isn’t necessary.

And Father’s Day has taken on extra significance for her husband in the time since.

“It’s beautiful, just to know the possibilities of what could have taken place,” Jordan said. “Just dwelling on the miracle that God has blessed us with and even still having my father around, who is 77 years old, I’m really blessed and truly grateful.”

Hood II Hood mentorship program honoring 12 men who 'live up to that father name' (3)

Hood II Hood — one of several local organizations Herbert “Hub” Burnett is involved with — hasn’t yet opened its doors to mentor individuals from challenged backgrounds.

But Burnett has already provided guidance to people through the project, which is named for a book written by his late brother, James, and will have its ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sunday.

“Hood II Hood really wants to deal with the most challenging young men, the men that probably won’t fit in any other program because they’re going to blow it up,” Burnett said. “We’re not in any competition with anybody; we want to connect the dots. So the organizations or the mentor groups, (if) they’ve got a kid that’s blowing it up and they can’t handle it, give them to us.”

Recognizing fathers who have excelled in their roles was an easy place to start.

Those to be honored Sunday will include people in their second, third and fourth decades of life from a variety of backgrounds.

Hood II Hood mentorship program honoring 12 men who 'live up to that father name' (4)

“All of us live up to that father name,” honoree Anthony Giboney said. “And all of us are ready to be who we are. We do what we’re supposed to do. And it shows from all walks of life.”

Giboney and his fellow honorees had a chance to meet each other at an informal gathering Wednesday night at Hood II Hood’s office.

Attendees swapped greetings and encouragement at the office, which sits next to Burnett’s Suits By Souljah storefront on Bradley Avenue in Champaign.

Hood II Hood mentorship program honoring 12 men who 'live up to that father name' (5)

“Everybody here has a big role in leadership,” honoree Marlowe Coleman said. “They don’t have to be pushed to do something. So when you look at the next person, they’re motivated, it keeps you motivated. And to be honest, I’ve had some of these same guys tell me ‘Hey, you’re doing a good job.’”

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Their common opinion: Being recognized for their roles as fathers wasn’t something they sought out, though the honor is certainly welcome.

“It’s very special to me because I don’t go around expecting to be rewarded for something that we’re supposed to do,” honoree Alexander Heath said. “Especially for a Black man. I got the call up, I was excited because it’s hard for us, I ain’t going to lie. We just don’t get recognized sometimes, so it was a good honor.”

Fellow honoree Javaciae Johnson agreed.

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“It means a lot to just show how hard I’ve been working,” Johnson said. “It’s hard for people like us to get the recognition of being fathers, so for me to be recognized as one of these 12 people is just amazing. I’m still young, I’ve got a long road to go, so being recognized this early just means a lot to me.”

Burnett kept a keen eye for deserving fathers when considering the dozen to be honored Sunday evening.

“Some of them I really don’t know that well, I’ve just been watching,” Burnett said. “The reason I do it that way is because a lot of times when you take recommendations, it becomes the buddy system. ... I want people who, just because you might not know them, that’s no reason to exclude them.”

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Hood II Hood mentorship program honoring 12 men who 'live up to that father name' (2024)
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