It all began with a pair of eyeglasses.
“I noticed Christian was sitting by himself, so I walked over, mentioned I had recently started wearing glasses and said I liked his,” said Al Moore, recalling the day he met Christian Pace.
Across the room, Pace’s mother, Kristen Green, intently watched the moment unfold.
“I could tell Christian and Al were having a deep conversation,” said Green. “It looked like they already knew each other very well.”
Moore’s impromptu introduction occurred during a 100 Black Men event. 100 Black Men of America, Inc. is a nonprofit dedicated to educating and empowering African-American children and teens through mentorship and leadership programs across nearly 100 chapters nationwide. Moore and Pace are members of the Little Rock, Arkansas, chapter.
“I was familiar with 100 Black Men through my college fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma,” explained Moore, a member of the Regions Investment Services team in Jonesboro. “I was approached by a friend in Rotary about becoming a mentor.”
The process was faster than he expected. Moments later, his friend introduced him to other 100 Black Men members, announcing, “He’s going to be joining us as a mentor one day.”
“I remember thinking, ‘Now I’ve got to show up,’” said Moore.
And show up he has – for the past four years.
Every other Saturday, Moore drives 220 miles round trip for 100 Black Men programs. He’s also devoted hundreds of additional hours to his mentees. He and Pace have been together since the start, and the 12-year-old whom Moore first spoke with is now almost 16.
People will say it’s the mentor shaping the mentee, but it’s really the mentee shaping the mentor.
Al Moore, member of the Regions Investment Services team
While Green didn’t know Moore would walk over to her son that day, she did believe in the impact a positive example could provide.
“Christian didn’t have a male figure in his life every day,” said Green. “He’s a very smart, bright kid, but he lacked motivation. He would complete his work but not turn it in. And he was experiencing some behavioral issues. This program and Al were a godsend.”
Moore understands how easy it can be for young men to get off track, especially if they don’t have male role models.
“Our youth in Little Rock face challenges,” he said. “I grew up in a two-parent household with a military dad. I realize how big of an influence it had on me and how lucky I was. The difference is I had that.”
Moore is committed to creating that stability for Pace. They play miniature golf, enjoy meals together and catch up on each other’s lives.
And it’s become far more than that.
“They have guy conversations,” said Green.
They also hold each other accountable. Moore has helped Pace improve his organizational skills, and Pace checks in with Moore about what’s happening in his life as well.
Sometimes, the conversation turns to employment. Moore is encouraging Pace to explore careers related to his automotive passion.
“I’ve promised Christian that if he earns a 4.0 GPA this semester, I’ll connect him with a friend who’s a mechanic for an informal internship to learn more about engines,” he said.
Moore’s guidance also includes life lessons.
“We talk about duty, honor and obligation,” he said. “You have a duty to look out for your mom, the honor of protecting your reputation and character, and an obligation to make your community better.”
Building confidence is another ‘guy conversations’ topic.
“I’ve tried to demonstrate that cool comes in many forms, in many varieties,” said Moore. “And there’s nothing more cool than being who you are.”
What has Pace gained from Moore’s mentorship?
“I’ve become more mature and learned there are consequences to my actions,” he said. “Al has shown me a lot in the world. He’s shown me how to be successful in life.”
Green is grateful for Moore’s time and commitment.
“Some people would do this as a resume filler,” she said. “Al is genuine. He’s committed to building up young men. He really wants to make a difference.”
And the results?
“We now have an honor roll student living up to his potential with no behavioral issues,” said his proud mom. “He’s much more confident in how he articulates himself.”
But if you think the lessons have only flowed in one direction, think again.
“People will say it’s the mentor shaping the mentee, but it’s really the mentee shaping the mentor,” said Moore. “Christian has helped me grow more than I’ve helped him. He opened up new pathways for me; he’s made me more empathetic and sympathetic. It’s been an evolution that’s helped make me a man.”
Two one-time strangers who are now family.
“Christian regards Al like his big brother,” said Green. “When Al sends photos of his baby, he says, ‘Look at my nephew!’ He wants to babysit.”
Moore feels the same.
“I’m the youngest in my family,” said Moore. “I’ve formed an attachment to him like a younger brother.”
For Moore, a self-admitted introvert, walking across that room wasn’t something he typically would’ve done. But that day, he felt prompted to take that step.
“It was all in God’s planning and timing,” he said.
“God said something to him that he needed to speak to Christian,” added Green. “I’m thankful Al did walk up to Christian that day and made his life better.”
And it all started with those eyeglasses. A pair that did more than improve Christian Pace’s vision. Ultimately, they helped him see his potential, too.