Amsterdam Mentor and Coach a ‘Hometown Hero’
John Sumpter was moved by the loss of two teenagers in Amsterdam two years ago and decided to create a not-for-profit organization geared toward mentoring and coaching the community's youth.
He started W1shfu1 Th1nk1ng and currently mentors 100 to 200 local kids of various ages and grade levels.
In addition to offering daily programs, Sumpter's organization also sponsors 3 on 3 tournaments, recreational basketball games, dodgeball games and more to help build self-esteem and confidence among the community's youth.
As part of the “Hometown Heroes” series, we’ve partnered with County Waste, Latham Ford and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region to celebrate local unsung heroes for their good deeds and honorable work.
We asked Sumpter a few questions. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: What inspires you to serve as a mentor to the area's youth?
A: I am inspired by inspiring others. What inspires me are the kids of Amsterdam, NY and the endless possibilities they can have if given the right opportunity and taken down a positive path. I didn’t have those things growing up. I actually chose the wrong path. I know what the consequences can be for going down that wrong path and how it takes away from the opportunities in life. I also knew two of the young teenage boys whose lives were taken too soon, just two years ago. I also knew the many lives that the loss of those two kids impacted.
The loss of these two precious lives and their friends who were shocked by these events are what inspire me to give back to my community of Amsterdam, NY. The smile on the children’s faces when they know they can be a part of a tournament or game, or that they want to help out our organization, W1shfu1 Th1nk1ng, in one of their community service projects. In two short years we have seen a divided, shocked community, come together and start to become a support program where the teens know they have several community adults that serve as mentors. Whether they want help in school, help in a sport, help with fitness or just want someone to talk to, they know all they have to do is come to one of us and we will be there for them.
Q: What's the most rewarding thing about what you do?
A: I would say the fact that we have seen several kids change their attitudes from a year ago and become more about serving their community with W1shfu1 Th1nk1ng than about themselves. To be able to teach a kid the right thing to do, so they don’t make the same mistake I did. To know that I can help, show and give a teenager the right tools and knowledge to go on to college or to find a job, all while explaining to him that none of these tasks will be easy. Whether college or a full-time job, nothing in life is handed to you and you've got to go out and get it. I think that is what is most rewarding, impacting a kid’s life.
Q: What are some challenges?
A: We have one major challenge and that is money and fundraising. We lack the proper educational resources to tutor students, proper athletic resources for sporting programs. We also lack a complete facility (currently just a basketball court and auditorium) to offer programs, and limited funding to offer any up-to-date privileged activities for teenagers.
We would love to have an after-school tutoring program, or a weekly educational activity or teen night where we can take kids out of negative environments or from the streets and put them into a positive healthy environment. There are no free recreational center or boys and girls club in Amsterdam because of limited funding and the lack of available donations. There are many kids left wandering the streets, getting into trouble and, even worse, not getting an opportunity to prove themselves as contributing society members.
Q: Do you consider yourself a "hero?" Why or why not.
A: Do I consider myself a hero? I don’t know about all that. I just know that every day I wake up, I try to be better than the last and lend a hand to the youth of my city. To be an outlet for any kid that wants to do something positive with their life, or if they just need a place to go so they can stay out of trouble. I consider myself a mentor, not a hero. I’m no superman, just an average guy who tries to give back to my community in my free time.