In 2004, Yvette Long read an article in a newspaper about the number of boys in New Jersey losing their lives to drive-by shootings and other homicides. Long saw “[There] was a loss of talent, God given ability.” She thought “how do we help them see they have the ability to make positive change?” She was inspired to do something about it. The result is that 15 years ago, she started Platinum Minds. It is a program for young men ages 13-17 from underdeveloped communities which helps them with leadership skills and education. The idea is not only to help the scholars (which is what they call the participants in the program) but their communities. “It’s great if you help these young men, but it’s even better to help them make their communities better,” said Long. A non-profit organization, Platinum Minds is headquartered in Chester with meetings in Morristown (though since the pandemic they have had their meetings and events virtually). Recently, Long, the director of Platinum Minds, talked about the organization.
Long remembers going through pages of paper when trying to come up with a name which would signify the work of the non-profit. “Minds of Gold” and “Minds Better Than Gold” were two of those considered, but they weren’t quite right. Then, it came to mind: Platinum was a premium metal. The name “Platinum Minds” was born.
To apply to join Platinum Minds, a young man must not do drugs or alcohol, want to do well in academics, be recommended to the program, have a 2.7 GPA, and be from a struggling community in New Jersey. Then, they are interviewed to see if they will be accepted into the program. Once in the program, scholars stay with it until they graduate high school.
The program runs from September to June. The scholars meet twice a month and learn skills such as problem-solving, giving presentations/speaking in front of a group, entrepreneurship, and more. Special speakers are brought in once a month to discuss topics, including careers the scholars may not have considered or known existed. Twice a year there are special sessions. Each November, there is the annual “Bridges Event”, a symposium which the scholars lead focusing on an issue facing communities. Youth from schools and communities are invited to attend and discuss the topic. This year the topic is homelessness in America. At these sessions, the youth are asked to share their opinions and to take back ideas to their schools on how to address the issue in their community. Each spring, there is reading enrichment where the scholars read to, and tutor, young boys. Also, part of the program is that the scholars help their communities, and they don’t have to wait for the future to help. They are expected to be role models and take leadership roles in school.
Presently, 120 scholars have graduated the Platinum Minds program. Long noted that the program is not just about helping the scholars today or just helping them alone. Alumni of the program come back and share what’s happening in their lives. Some who have come back to share are now engineers; some work for high profile companies, etc. They are active in their communities. “[It is not about] helping one life, but that life helping many more,” said Long.
A non-profit organization, Platinum Minds has 10-12 volunteers and does fundraising during the year while also looking for funding from educational organizations. Recently, Long moved to South Carolina. Her hope is to expand Platinum Minds into South Carolina and Georgia.
For more information on Platinum Minds or to volunteer, see its website at platinumminds.org/