The men of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. have mentored more than 5,000 boys in the Los Angeles area during the past 22 years through their Youth Leadership Conference.

This community service project was created in response to the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. After witnessing the situation, Ricky Lewis reached out to fellow members of Tau Tau Chapter in Compton, to establish a program that would pull together 100 boys to teach them about wellnes, leadership, manhood and personal responsibility.

“We decided to put together a program to assist young African American males ages 13-18, to keep them off the streets, and encourage them to take care of their community,” Lewis said. “We have sessions where we talk to them about personal responsibility, manhood 101, chivalry is not dead, listen to your parents, getting good grades and going off to college.”

Lewis said the program also conducts sessions with parents, where the discussion is about raising young Black boys.

Initially planned as a one-time event, the program became so successful that the fraternity decided to do it year round.

“Twenty-two years later we’re still doing the same program, and we’ve touched the lives of about 5,500 young boys,” Lewis said. “We’ve sent quite a few of them to college, quite a few of them have become members of our organization, and we’re still doing the year-round mentoring program.”

The first meeting was held at Southwest College in 1993, and each year the number of young men attending grew larger. Before long, the Omegas moved the program to Compton College as they attracted 300 boys. The organization also expanded the age of the boys being mentored from 13 to 18 to include boys as young as 8-years-old.

“We found out that by the time the 13-year-old boys came to us, they were already pretty much set in their ways,” Lewis said. “So we had to go back and get the younger boys.”

The program eventually moved to USC, and this year they will mentor 700 youth. More than 250 college-educated men from all of the fraternity’s Southern California chapters, participate in this program.

For more information, visit www.omegaeducationalfoundation.org.