Commitment to Mentoring Comes from Childhood Experiences
Branden Ballard, 30, lost his mother at a young age. He believes that tragedy helped him become the man he is today.
Raised by his grandmother in Detroit, Ballard immersed himself in many after school programs, such as basketball, football and track. Through these activities, Ballard saw first-hand the impact a volunteer can have on a child. “I was around men who poured their time into me when they didn’t have to. I knew so me day I wanted to do the same,” Ballard explained.
After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2006 with a degree in Social Sciences, Ballard stayed in Pittsburgh and has been giving back to the community and making a difference to many young people in the area ever since.
Ballard is a manager for the Pittsburgh Public Schools “We Promise Program,” which provides resources to African-American male students to ensure that they are prepared and eligible to receive a scholarship from The Pittsburgh Promise. When Ballard started with the program in 2013, 18% of African American male students were eligible for The Pittsburgh Promise. Just a year later, that number rose to 30%.
Looking back at his childhood, Ballard believes that if he had not had mentors and strong men to guide him as a child, he doesn’t know where he would be in life today.
Ballard “pays it forward” by spending most of his free time as a volunteer and mentor. Ballard was a mentor at Amachi Pittsburgh for five years, and continues to have weekly calls with his mentee, even though the mentee aged out of the program. He also has been a NFL Youth Flag Football coach for boys aged 10 to 12 for the past three years. Ballard models himself after the many men who mentored him as a child, hoping to make the that kind of difference in the next generation.
In addition to being a mentor and coach, Ballard is the president of the Urban League of Young Professionals Pittsburgh (YPP), which brings together Pittsburgh area professionals between the ages of 21 and 39 who are committed to volunteering, philanthropy and membership development. Ballard has been a part of YPP for the past eight years. “Being a part of the Urban League’s program gives me the opportunity to give back to the community and build networks with like-minded people,” Ballard said.
Ballard had enjoyed getting to know Pittsburgh. He has “sampled” many of its communities and neighborhoods as a resident, including Manchester, South Oakland, Lawrenceville, and Highland Park.
Ashley Brooks nominated Ballard, her former coach at Public Allies Pittsburgh, to be a Dignity & Respect Champion. Brooks says, “Branden is selfless in both his work and his personal life. He cultivates an inclusive environment anywhere he goes. Regardless of a person’s race, religion or gender, he creates a respectful and judgment free zone. He is a role model for me and many other young people in Pittsburgh.”
Ballard hopes to pass the torch and inspire as many people as he possibly can. Branden Ballard exemplifies Dignity & Respect Tip 27, “Become a mentor.”
Do you know an individual who makes a positive impact and promotes an environment of inclusion? If so, nominate the person in your life you feel has made a difference for the Dignity & Respect Champion Award! This prestigious award recognizes people who are engaged in their communities, live by the principles of dignity and respect, and promote an environment of inclusion.
The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect. What started in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a local community effort, has now become a national initiative dedicated to driving inclusion and promoting campaign launch efforts in every major city in the U.S.