SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) He’s known simply as “Mr. Collins.” But this week’s Jefferson Award winner is like a father to many young African American men he mentors in San Francisco.
High school graduate Isaiah Bryant will study international business and Japanese at San Francisco State University. He owes a debt of thanks to Gregory Collins.
“Our relationship is very much priceless,” Bryant said. “He’s taught me things about being a man that I never would have gotten had I never been a part of this program.”
Mr. Collins is the executive director of San Francisco Achievers, an 8-year-old nonprofit that equips underserved high school students, especially African American men, for college and successful careers.
“Every day I get a new story,” he explained. “Someone calls me and says, ‘Greg, this person just got shot this morning, this person’s about to drop out of school, this person just got knocked up, they’re pregnant.’ There’s always something. OK, this needs to change!”
SF Achievers has reached more than 400 students through mentorships, internships, leadership training and scholarships totaling nearly two million dollars.
“I want them to be able to stand on their own two feet and be proud and say, ‘Yes, I accomplished this,'” Collins said.
Collins grew up in Camden, New Jersey, listed as one of the nation’s most dangerous cities. But he found a support system in the nonprofit Urban Promise, becoming one of its youth counselors at age 13. Years before he graduated from college, he knew he wanted to help others carve a positive path.
A cornerstone of the SF Achievers program: giving teens support on campus. Collins has expanded workshops at Wallenberg and Burton High Schools, teaching life skills like money management.
For student Immanuel Hudson, Collins is a role model as a leader and listener.
“Greg really opened my eyes to the advantages I can pursue,” he said. “He calls me his philosopher. So he likes to hear what I have to say.”
And in the end, students can become high achievers, like Isaiah Bryant, who received a scholarship from the nonprofit.
“It’s unlocked infinite doors for me,” Bryant said.
So for preparing young men for college and career success, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Gregory Collins.