T Joe Barksdale spent the day tutoring students at Omega Psi Phi, Sigma Iota Chapter, in Oakland, Calif. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Recently, T Joe Barksdale spent the day at the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity – Graduate Chapter "Omega Gents" program in Oakland, Calif. The "Omega Gents" program is a tutoring program for African American high school students from Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville. "Mentoring young African American men has always been something we as a fraternity have focused on," said Timothy Waters, the Northern California Area Representative. "Here at Sigma Iota, this chapter in Oakland, the mentoring component is something that we've always done."
Barksdale reached out to the Omega Psi Phi graduate chapter and was told about some opportunities to get involved. "I recently got in touch with this graduate chapter and they told me about some community service opportunities they've been doing," said Barksdale. "I told them I wanted to be a part of it next time it happened."
The tutoring program Barksdale participated in was added to the "Omega Gents" program last year. "Every Saturday morning, from 9-11, we focus on tutoring," said Waters. "We want the young men to bring work assignments they have going forward or old exams that they had problems with. And then different brothers will be working with them one-on-one to get them the skills that they need."
The second-year offensive tackle out of LSU joined the brothers to help tutor the high school students. Barksdale hoped to leave a lasting impression on the young men. "[I want to pass on] the same thing people passed on to me," said Barksdale. "The importance of education, the benefits of hard work, those kinds of things. Whenever you're part of an organization that people look up to, I think you have a little bit more credibility in their eyes."
Having a local professional athlete and a member of Omega Psi Phi spend time with the kids was greatly appreciated by the "Omega Gents." "We're glad to have Joe come down and join us," said Waters. "I wanted him to come down to reinforce to the young men that he didn't get to where he got by being lax. He was dedicated, he was disciplined and he put in a lot of hard work. And I want him to communicate that message."
Waters was adamant that those messages get across to the students. "Those are the types of messages we want the young men to understand, whether you want to be a professional athlete, a doctor, or a social worker or a minister, I'm less concerned with what specific role you're going to play, as long as it's positive," said Water. "But it takes work, it takes dedication, it takes commitment, it takes education. We have a great benefit of having Joe down here to help us from that perspective."