Y Achievers, YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City
Lonnie Nichols has served as a volunteer mentor for the Y Achievers program at the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City for six years and as a mentor to four students at Northwest Classen High School every year.
Shannon Presti, director of teen leadership initiatives at the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City, describes Nichols as an “incredible businessman and the utmost professional” who also has an “infectious, fun, positive energy about him.”
However, she adds, “it is his thoughtful nature that led him to become an outstanding mentor for the Y Achievers program.”
Nichols learned about the program through his colleagues while working for the Oklahoma City Thunder. “He immediately wanted to get involved, as he personally knows the importance of having strong role models in his own life and the great impact they have had on his success,” Presti says.
“Each month, Lonnie mentors freshmen at Northwest Classen High School to help jumpstart their interest in college as well as to encourage them to successfully complete high school,” she notes. “Lonnie takes the curriculum that is provided and breathes a whole new life into each session,” she adds, noting that he does so by drawing upon his personal passion for helping others and his zeal for life to create personalized sessions for his small group.
“He reaches across cultures to bond with the students and creates real connections, so the students feel comfortable and want to glean every ounce of information,” says Presti. “He goes above and beyond what any mentor is expected to do because he cares so deeply for his students and their successes.”
One of the ways he has gone beyond expectations is through creation of a mentor task force to brainstorm ideas to enhance the program. One of the ideas resulting from this task force was the creation of a preprinted student program book to replace the loose-leaf activity sheets handed out at each session. Though seemingly a small idea, Presti says, it has “significantly altered the program by cutting down on staff time to prepare the materials each month as well as creating a program foundation for the students to carry with them throughout high school.”
The Y Achievers program, Presti concludes, “is stronger because of Lonnie’s involvement, because his passion for enhancing our community is second to none, and he sets an incredible example for the other volunteers to follow.”
About the Program: Y Achievers, a program of the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City, is a college readiness and career exploration program designed to help underserved, first-generation college-bound and minority teens to achieve higher education.