In 1990, serving as a Deputy Sheriff with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, Donald Northcross was deeply troubled by the fate of too many young African-American males. Too many were being incarcerated or worse yet…were the victims of needless homicides. Northcross, determined to do something, was driven by a passion to reduce the high rates of homicide and incarceration that were impacting too many African-American boys’ lives. Fortunately, his passion led to action and the founding of the OK (Our Kids) Program. Today – more than 25 years later – the OK Program is a national leadership development model that continues to impact the lives of African-American boys and the men who are their mentoring partners.
It all began in Rancho Cordova, California, which at the time was one of the most violent neighborhoods in Sacramento County. Northcross recruited, trained and organized African-American men to mentor boys 12 to 18 years old. From the start, he had a singular focus and a steadfast vision – reduce the homicides and incarcerations of black males through a mentoring program that develops their leadership capacity, critical thinking skills, and promotes academic excellence.
As a Deputy Sheriff, Northcross – who became known as Dep to the OK boys and mentors – also saw the OK Program as a vehicle for establishing and improving relationships between police and the African-American communities they serve. Today, as leaders from urban communities seek ways to develop that trust, the OK Program remains a beacon of community-wide cooperation and collaboration.
Now in six cities, the OK Program continues to recruit African-American men as mentors. In 2013, it launched the “100,000 Strong National African-American Male Mentor Initiative” with a goal to enlist 100,000 African-American male mentors for the OK Program. The increased number of mentors will fuel the Program’s national expansion… especially to those cities that have recently experienced unrest following the shootings of African-American males, and more importantly, to those communities that want to implement solutions for improving police community relationships.
As it works with school districts, the law enforcement and faith-based communities, the OK Program has grown to become the longest running mentorship program focused specifically on African-American boys. The vision that Dep had 25 years ago for helping African-American boys live long productive lives is needed today more than ever.
Learn how to get involved with our national expansion here.