Can leadership be developed? Are you born with it? We may never know, but Antioch’s Jonathan Vincent is proving that the true answer may be both.
Vincent, a 2016 graduate of Martin Luther King Magnet School, is participating in the Bank of America Student Leader program, which is part of Bank of America’s Summer Youth employment initiative. The goal is recognize community-minded high school students while connecting employment, skills development and service.
“I found out about the program through a counselor at school, and applied in 2015,” Vincent said.
He was invited to interview and the process, he said, wrapped up in March when he was informed of winning the internship and what kind of things he’d be doing. The process was a bit selective as only five students from Middle Tennessee and about 200 nationwide were selected.
“The program focuses on being involved in the community and trying to make a difference,” Vincent, who spent eight weeks at the Oasis Center, which seeks to help disconnected, at-risk, young people grow into healthy adults, in Downtown Nashville for his internship, said.
This is perfect for Vincent.
“I’m all about youth, youth growth, and development,” Vincent said.
He is working in the Bike Workshop program, which seems ideal for Vincent.
He helps young people build bikes, “from the frame up.” They are allowed to customize their bikes, including changing tires, changing seats, and the like. He also teaches them how to properly maintain and care for their bikes. The children’s week concludes when he takes them on a bike ride around Nashville along various bike trails. He then gives them bike maps and the tools they need to maintain their new bicycles.
The experience of working with the children, who range in age from about 11 to about 15 or 16, is, according to Vincent, “awe inspiring.”
“I love youth and young people,” Vincent said. “Some of it is me being a young person, but being around youth and seeing their vibrance, innocence and wanting to learn and have a good time.”
As part of the internship, he was given the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. There, he helped pass out boxes put together by the American Red Cross to troops. He also had a chance to talk with elected leaders from Tennessee.
“I met with Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, and Rep. Dianne Black regarding some of the issues people face in our community,” he said.
His focus in those conversations was on education and education reform, what they are doing to try to get more people to buy into education as a long-term pursuit.
They seemed receptive Vincent said.
He said that is the reason the Bank of America Student Leader program was right for him. The internship concluded this past Friday.
His involvement in youth activities isn’t limited to the internship, though. At MLK, Vincent was active in both basketball and track and field, including taking third in the state in long jump. He’s also worked with Hands On Nashville and Backfield in Motion, a nonprofit that combines athletics and academics to help inner city young men reach their maximum potential.
He is also involved in In Full Motion, a program working with students across Middle Tennessee to help them improve their ACT scores.
You may think that is enough, but it isn’t. Vincent’s father is Jon Keith Vincent, pastor at Greater Compassion Ministries, which currently holds services in the Global Mall, next to the Southeast Branch Library, in Antioch.
Vincent is heavily involved in his father’s ministry, especially the musical side, and he plays piano, keyboard, and organ, and also sings.
His future plans include attending Tennessee State University, where he plans to major in criminal justice.
“I’m going to be studying criminal justice,” he said. “I want to use that to change some of the things, some of the tragedies, but in long term want to use that to change some of the things that have become norms, in regards to race and other issues in our community.”
He added, “I think you just need to be loving and compassionate. I could be there in their position, anybody could be in their position,” he said of the youth in the bike program at the Oasis Center.
“They need love and compassion and support from people that are willing to give that support,” he said. “It needs to be consistent and not just for one day, but over time, build and grow a relationship and become consistent and more genuine.”
Seems like good advice.