Leah Williams Metts

Why is mentorship important and how do you enact it in the world?

I am truly honored to be recognized among the 2014 YWCA Women of Achievement in Rhode Island. To be honest, I have attempted to write this essay on numerous occasions. Each time I begin the process, my mind turns to the remarkable women recognized presently, and in the years past. Chief Justice of the RI Family Court Judge Haiganush R. Bedrosian, Amos House President, Eileen Hayes, the Annenberg Institute’s Angela Romans, Betty Adler . . . Gina Raimondo . . . I find the company a bit humbling.

So, why is mentorship important? I’ve always believed that our most important and precious resource is our children. Certainly, my personal story has been shaped by my four beautiful kids. As a child, I grew up in Providence. I am a product of successful private, and city recreational programs. My Mother was raising three kids on her own, and was forced to work long hours to provide for us. The staff members at facilities such as The Davey Lopes Recreation Center, John Hope Settlement House, and The Boys and Girls Clue had a nurturing and formative influence on my life, and, largely, I credit them for steering my path away from drugs, and crime.

Naturally, I expected the same offerings for my four children. What I found was quite different. Violent crime was steadily increasing in my community, drug overdoses was on the rise, public recreation was being cut from the city’s budget, and private recreation was underfunded.

With regards to raising a child, my belief has always been that “it takes a village.” I found many other kindred spirits along the way, and together we are attempting to make some of the changes that need to be made in Rhode Island. Magaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Many of the committed private citizens and elected officials I have encountered leave me hopeful that we will achieve all of our goals. What could be a better use of government resources than to provide programs aimed at empowering our children?

Mentorship can come in many forms. It takes many influences to raise a child up to be an empowered and effective adult. The more doors we open for them, the greater the chance that they will find the right path. I am hopeful by the positive steps that, together, we have made towards these goals, and I am inspired by the future that I can see for my children.

Leah Williams Metts graduated from Hope High School and served as class president. She holds a Degree from Empire Beauty School. She attended Rhode Island College and Community College of Rhode Island. Metts co-chairs the alumni board at Davey Lopes Recreation Center, a place she credits for keeping her safe and off the streets as a child. She was integral in the formation of the NAACP Youth Council on which she serves as chairwoman and sits on the Executive Board of the NAACP. She is a member of the Southside Elementary Charter School Board and Providence Police Advisory Board. She serves as a Court Appointed Special Advocate. She also serves as political consultant on several current statewide campaigns. Metts is the director of community engagement and outreach for OIC of Rhode Island providing job training and placement. She is also the community outreach coordinator for Swim Empowerment.

photo by Agapao Productions