INDIANAPOLIS — At the onset of the pandemic, traditions, ceremonies and celebrations were uprooted. Graduations, birthdays, and the prom was too. Even WRTV's presentations to recipients of The Jefferson Award for Multiplying Good.
Last year, in the early stages of the pandemic, WRTV honored an educator who has influenced thousands of young people for years. We sent him a medallion. But, in our rapidly changing world at that time, we didn't get to tell his amazing story.
Now, we are.
Today, we highlight Mr. Roy Dobbs.
When Lloyd McKinney was just a 6th grader, he met a man who would change his life.
"Mr. Dobbs is one of the first Black men that was my actual teacher. The first Black male teacher I had in my entire life in 6th grade," McKinney recalled.
And 20 years ago, when Roy Dobbs was a young teacher at a new Augusta North in Pike Township, he launched a program to inspire and lift up boys and young men.
Now, Dobbs is the principal at the New Augusta North Public Academy.
It has a fitting name for the program: "Young Men of Purpose."
"The purpose of the program is just that," Dobbs explained. "To give young men a sense of purpose."
McKinney wanted to be a part of that.
"It was great having Mr. Dobbs say, "Hey! You'd be great for this program." I remember being so excited about it. I couldn't wait to tell my mom and I couldn't wait to be a part of Mr. Dobbs' legacy here at New Augusta North," McKinney said.
Dobbs' Young Men of Purpose Program, known as YMP, focuses on building character, citizenship and academics. It's also inspiring boys and young men to give back and volunteer.
"More recently, we've gotten heavily involved with Wheeler Mission, Gleaners Food Bank, and Habitat for Humanity," Dobbs said. "We would dress up on Thursdays at Pike High School. We even did it in the middle schools, and just to see the young men taking pride in themselves. How not only were they making better choices and working hard in the classroom...how just overall they carried themselves and the pride that they took in the program. That was a transformation because you had a lot of young men who went from never doing this before and not really knowing what to expect to anticipating the next opportunity that would come up to serve. It just became contagious."
"I remember when I was in 6th grade, we used to actually meet after school, actually before and after school," McKinney said. "He would show us a movie or we'd have some snacks and then he would talk to us about some of those values that are listed in the book, in regards to service, in regards to purpose, responsibility...accountability is always a big one."
The book is the publication Dobbs eventually authored so other schools could easily incorporate this program. Over the years, he has helped more schools in Pike Township, in central Indiana, and other parts of the country launch YMP, creating a brotherhood of service and excellence, in which older students mentor younger children entering the program.
In fact, more than 4,000 students in Pike Township schools alone have thrived in YMP.
"I just saw young men, you know, at an early age just really become focused and determined individuals, who really believe they had a purpose in life...and as I continue to follow them, I was able to see them graduate from college becoming doctors, lawyers," Dobbs said.
As well as educators.
Dobbs taught social studies to McKinney, and he grew up to teach social studies for five years.
"And so, I remember thinking if I could just follow in the footsteps of Mr. Dobbs, then I'd be OK," McKinney said. "And so, I've been doing that."
Now, McKinney is Dean of Students at North Central High School, aiming to change young lives the way Dobbs changed his. And, he's so proud to see Dobbs sporting The Jefferson Award for Multiplying Good.
"Oh, he should have had it years ago, years ago. So, I'm happy that he's getting his flowers now," McKinney said. "This won't be the only award, I'm certain of it. But he deserves it."
The Young Men of Purpose mentorship program has been successfully implemented in elementary, middle, and high schools nationwide. Dobbs also travels the country, helping schools interested in the program, implement it into their curriculum.
Watch the video in the player above to learn more.