Mentoring has always played a huge role in Eddie Melton’s life, and the Gary-born man is devoted to creating mentoring opportunities for young men and women around Northwest Indiana.
His latest venture is The Mentoring Trust, which is a partnership with the Urban League Northwest Indiana.
He started the program with friends in 2013, with the purpose of promoting mentoring programs within the community and recruiting mentors and placing them with organizations that meet their needs.
“We want to partner with mentoring programs and help them identify mentors that will work well with them,” he said. “When you mentor someone, you can find an opportunity that matches your schedule, whether you want to commit to a few hours a week or once a month.”
In 2014, the group had a goal of identifying 100 mentors in 100 days, and during that timeframe worked towards getting people connected with mentoring programs including Big Brothers and the Gary Literacy Coalition.
This year, the Mentoring Trust is using some of the components of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper program to find 50 additional mentors for the Gary Literacy Coalition, to support their program at Bernard C. Watson boys academy in Gary.
“We want to recruit 50 additional mentors for a one-to-one match with the young men in their program, which will support young men grades 4 through 6,” he said.
Anyone interested in being one of those 50 mentors can call the Gary Literacy Coalition directly at (219) 885-2229.
Melton, 34, has been involved in mentoring programs his entire life. He credits his own strong support system to his family as he grew up, and those people helped steer him away from gangs and drugs and other challenges that have plagued other young people growing up.
“A lot of people do not have positive male role models, and I always wanted to be someone that my peers and other youth could reach out to or look up to as an advisor or champion,” he said. “I want to be someone who can help others accomplish their goals.”
He started his first mentoring program, called Redd Karpet Achievement, when he was in his 20s, partnering with organizations in Gary and East Chicago.
“We called it that because when you think about a red carpet, you think about getting special treatment, and we wanted to make sure that every youth we were engaged with received that special attention,” he said.
Melton ultimately joined the Legacy Foundation, serving as a community initiative officer, finding funding for college readiness programs throughout Lake County. From there, he transitioned to NIPSCO, starting as a communications specialist, where he focused on charitable giving and finding ways for the company to give back to the community.
He is now the manager of governmental and community relations at NIPSCO, and about five years ago he helped the company launch the IN-POWER mentoring program.
The program took about 15 students from the Merrillville, Gary and Lake Ridge community school corporations and introduced them to every aspect of the NIPSCO business, from human resources to accounting to engineering, giving them an opportunity to see every aspect of how the business worked.
“Not only did we have a mentoring relationship with them, but we also sponsored dual credit for the students,” he said. All of the students who were mentored through the program graduated from high school, and about 90 percent of them graduated with a 3.0 grade point average or higher.
“One young lady actually graduated a year earlier because of the credit she was able to obtain,” he said.
He sees a bright future for not only Mentoring Trust, but other mentoring programs around the region.
“There are so many different ways you can look at mentoring,” he said. “You can informally mentor someone and not even notice, just by the life you live and the things you’re doing. Or you can mentor through a formal program. You’re not trying to replace a parent, you can just be someone who is a positive adult role model, a coach, an advisor, a cheerleader or their champion.”