Mentors sharpen skills to let kids shine

Published May 10, 2007

The last time I heard from the Millennium Mentors of Tampa Bay they didn't possess a title, logo or Web site.

But they did have a lock on potential.

These five young business professionals teamed up last summer to help Houston Rockets forward and Auburndale native Tracy McGrady stage a Tampa fundraiser for his foundation. One of the five, Jordan Vreeland, grew up with McGrady, and the two remain friends.

Although Tampa has some notoriety for celebrity no shows - remember the Shaquille O'Neal fiasco? - the McGrady event proved successful. In its wake, the group, which includes five former collegiate athletes, realized it didn't need the dollars or notoriety of an NBA player to make a positive impact.

So the five, Vreeland, his brother Grant, Kevin Perry, Joe Philon Jr. and Anddrikk Frazier, formed the Millennium Mentors during a meeting at the Tampa Club.

"Our generation gets a bad knock, " said Frazier, a former University of South Florida point guard who now works as a regional manager for TECO. "What you have with the Millennium Mentors is a group of guys who understand that what we have we didn't get on our own. We had people who helped us.

"Now we want to help young people in the hopes that when they became professionals, they will extend that olive branch to the next generation."

The mentors have made a lot of progress since delving into this nonprofit effort last August. The first step came with a series of networking events to generate a buzz, followed by a few charitable efforts such as a turkey giveaway for Thanksgiving. Membership has grown from five to 30, and includes a range of professions.

The mission? Well, the guys focused on their passion for student athletes and then extended that to a broader level to attain more students. Now its program will target kids involved in performing arts, fine arts and literary work, as well as athletes.

The idea is to provide the kids with core lessons that will help them advance in the business world.

In August, the mentors will enroll approximately 30 high school and college students in a program that will stress "five pillars" of success: corporate skills, business etiquette, social responsibility, personal wellness and financial acumen.

"As they enter the workplace and get their first jobs, hopefully we can help them understand that instead of running to the jewelry store with their first paycheck, they should start planning for their future, " Frazier said.

At the same time, the group continues to have charity events and social functions.

On Saturday, deserving mothers will receive a day of pampering at Cali ProNail and Tiffany Nail & Spa at Westshore Plaza thanks to the mentors, the University Area Community Development Corporation, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay and The Spring.

How much the mentors eventually accomplish remains to be seen, but I wouldn't bet against them. They now have a title, logo and Web site www.mmenof tampabay.com, but more important, they have a mission.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or hooper@sptimes.com.