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Research for Ed.D Leads to Ministry for At-Risk Male Youths

Practice what you teach

Kevin Granderson, Ed.D ’20, is doing what he needs to do to get to where he and his partners want to be. Essentially, the University of St. Thomas-Houston assistant professor of Leadership and Social Change is practicing what he teaches. Granderson and his two associates, Pastor Joshua Ledet and Donald Jenkins, started a youth ministry for at-risk males in March 2021. The outreach called Hope Leadership Academy is their passion. But this passion requires funding. So they fund the ministry by taking a percentage of the profits from the construction company the three founded together.

How He Got the Idea

The idea for Hope Leadership Academy germinated in Granderson’s research as he pursued his doctorate in education at UST.

The assistant professor said, “My study was around the phenomenon of cyclical poverty and entrenchment among African American males. The phenomenon involves adverse childhood experiences, which are generational. The boys get stuck. I thought I could break that cycle if I could catch them younger.”

Participants from Cuney Homes Neighborhood Learn about Hope

Hope Leadership Academy is affiliated with Wesley Foundation at Texas Southern University Campus Ministry. Granderson finds program participants in a blighted Houston neighborhood.

“Specifically, these are young boys, ages 12 to 16 coming out of Cuney Homes,” Granderson said. “We have set up to serve that community, so that’s where we go. And we have 10 boys currently. We show them what faith in Christ is. What hope is. How to walk that walk. We show them who they can be and how the world can be better with God. Nothing fancy, but effective in its approach.”

Breaking Out of a Social and Economic Box

Hope Leadership Academy sometimes takes the boys outside of their world.

“They only know this social and economic box they’ve been raised in,” Granderson added. “We introduce them to other simple experiences like a trip to Whole Foods. It’s about giving them hope and identity and purpose in Jesus Christ.”

Teaching What God Has Called the Boys to Do

The mentors get the youths to focus on what God has called them to do, and the result has been remarkable. Granderson tells an awe-inspiring story.

“As I met them that first day, they were playing basketball, and their guns were tucked away by the trash can. I just showed up with pizza and a Bible and introduced myself. We prayed together. Seven were consistent about coming, including an early 6th grader. By the 4th week, I asked him where his gun was, and he replied, ‘I don’t carry my gun anymore cuz I’m safe.’ His environment hadn’t changed, the people hadn’t changed, but we had spoken to him about God’s protection. So none of our boys carry guns anymore.”

He hopes to transfer from the construction biz to full-time in the ministry, but that will take money. So he and Ledet and Jenkins are exploring creative, sustainable financial solutions which are genuinely grassroots-driven. One idea involves sustainable one-dollar-per-month supporting memberships.

For more information about the Hope Leadership Academy ministry visit here.