MENTOR welcomes Fred T. Whitted Jr., the New Director of Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives



Could you introduce yourself and include a little about your background?

I am Fred T. Whitted Jr. and I am the new Director of Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives at MENTOR. I have 7+ years of progressive experience in outreach, training, and program development. I gained these professional opportunities by working within the non-profit and higher education fields.  Most recently, I served as the Associate Director of Outreach & Engagement at MENTOR Nebraska under the direction of Executive Director, Melissa Mayo.

To understand my present, you have to know my past. I was originally born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri where all I ever wanted to do was play sports. I had no aspirations of college and had planned to enlist upon graduation. That all changed when I received my first scholarship offer my junior year of high school.

That scholarship offer ignited a thirst for knowledge and the desire to want more for my life.  Feeling that life does not yield many opportunities to start over, I knew going to college was my shot.  I decided to leave the comforts of my home state and accepted a football scholarship at Peru State College.

During my college career is when I began fostering a sense of community and advocacy. I found myself not only becoming a pillar on the football field but also on campus and within the community. I served within organizations like Black Student Union, and SAAC (Student Athletic Advisory Committee), while also being a four-year football starter and voted team captain.

In 2011, I joined Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and two weeks later I graduated from Peru. The chance to join this illustrious fraternity allowed me to hone my skills both professionally and personally, initially working with our auxiliary mentoring programs like Omega Squires and Project Manhood and Friends.

After graduation, I moved up the road to Omaha, Nebraska, where I currently reside today. I have represented organizations like the Urban League of Nebraska and MENTOR Nebraska. I have also worked at post-secondary institutions such as Metropolitan Community College and University of Nebraska at Omaha.

What brought you to MENTOR?

What brought me to MENTOR was the opportunity to make systemic change and have decisions I make impact thousands of people. As stated earlier, my experience at MENTOR Nebraska helped develop several skill sets, which I believe will yield beneficial results to the MENTOR team.  Having affiliate experience of convening partners, hosting trainings, and workshops has helped me prepare for a position of this magnitude.

Leading ‘Youth, Voice, and Engagement’ is a great opportunity that I did not want to pass up either.  I wanted to continue my work utilizing youth voices pertaining to the strategic planning of mentoring programs and advisory boards. I love speaking with, and working alongside, our youth. They have been, and will always be my inspiration.

Expanding my reach nationally, while broadening my scope, was the chance of a lifetime. This also about legacy, which to me is not defined by “my personal success but the success of the people that I have invested into.” We tell the youth to, “invest in yourself and your dream.” It is not my turn to do so.

What does your new role entail? What are you most looking forward to?

There is a lot to look forward to in a position that has been created or newly re-vamped.  You do not have a blueprint of how your role should function.  Creating the standard that this position will be critiqued against is very motivating for me.

I am looking forward to defining MENTOR’s definition of “partner and partnerships.”  Creating systems that will help sustain and cultivate positive partnerships with internal and external partners. Leading the ideation, preparation, and updates on strategic partnerships requested by the leadership team.

I will also be leading our Quarterly calls for National Mentoring Organizations, while supporting partners program implementation and engagement strategy.  I will be analyzing past interactions to gain a historical background on these convenings and adjust the presentation as, or if, needed.

What types of partnerships are you hoping to create? To strengthen?

I want to create partnerships that are two-way streets. I want our partners to be equally invested in our success, as we are in  theirs. I want to have clear and defined expectations for both parties so that we can create accountability within these partnerships.

Once established, I am enthused about cultivating partnerships that advance knowledge, promote learning, awareness, and foster creativity. Collaborating with educational institutions, sports programs, businesses, non-profit organizations and other entities that will push me to expand MENTOR’s reach and advocacy.

What challenges do you anticipate?

I believe that when you come into a position that is brand new or newly re-constructed, it’s a blank canvas. Sometimes it is difficult to decipher what you should work on first. I think there is a natural nervousness that comes with that. However, you must hold onto the fact, “they would not pick you if they did not feel you can do the work.”

I think that once MENTOR has established our definition of a “partner” and what a “healthy partnership” looks like, we can begin to manage our partners’ expectations. We are going to explore different, new, and more succinct ways to communicate with partners. Ensuring that our messaging is  consistent across the affiliate networks, especially with organizations that cover multiple states.  There are going to be some natural growing pains with this transition, but it will make us a better organization because of it.

This is also the most robust team I have ever worked with.  In my career, teams I have been apart of were no more than 10 people.  Some colleagues on staff, I will be working with more than others.  However, my aim is to know all departments and the names that hold them up.

What gives you hope for young people in America?

What gives me hope for young people in America is that they can be very self-motivated to step-up and lead. They have a foundational understanding that the decisions made today will impact their tomorrow.  They are not afraid to pushback and use their voice to amplify their needs and desires.

I would also credit organizations and programs that see value in young people and invest in them. When first thinking of integrating youth voices into everyday work, organizations must be prepared to “slow down.”  That ideology is not fit for all organizations, depending on the field. However, what it does is empower our youth and not just make them marketing tools for an agenda they may not comprehend.