A lack of early exposure and limited financial resources can leave some local youths in college limbo with no way to realize their higher education dreams. But Derek Holmes is hoping to change that through Next Chapter: A College Tour Experience, which takes high school students ages 15 to 17 on a tour of historical black colleges.
“It is a college tour, but that is just the part that gives them exposure to what they’re going to do next in life,” said Holmes, who founded the tour two years ago and serves as its director. “We also mentor them the whole time about life after high school.”
Holmes, who works as a business development coordinator for the Office of Business Opportunity, became involved with mentoring youth two years ago through the 100 Black Men of Metropolitan Houston chapter, an orgnization that helps improve the quality of life for African-Americans and other minorities.
Holmes founded the Next Chapter college tour through this chapter.
“We want to inspire them to do better in high school so they can get into the better schools,” Holmes said.
Since founding the tour two years ago, Holmes has taken more than 60 mentees to 17 colleges including Morehouse College and Howard University.
“He’s very engaged and he cares about what we can do keep the kids on the right path,” said Roy Carr, mentoring chairman for the 100 Black Men of Metropolitan Houston chapter. “He gives personal examples to the mentees about how he made it.”
Along with overseeing the logistics and helping to raise $30,000 in tour funds, Holmes mentors the youth about life after high school and financial literacy.
“During the school year, we meet with our mentees who are middle school and high schoolers two Saturdays a month throughout the year,” Holmes said. “We talk about all kinds of things.”
When Holmes noticed parents waiting for their children during his mentor sessions, he decided to form a parent mentoring program.
“I started pulling the parents into another room and talking about entrepreneurship, civic engagement and financial literacy,” said Holmes, who also served as the chapter’s economic empowerment chair and board member at-large.“I have an obligation to share my personal and professional experiences with others.”
Holmes’ passion for helping small businesses prompted him to volunteer with the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce as membership co-chairman, where helped to increase membership while working with small businesses to understand key elements of financial literacy and economic empowerment.
He also volunteered for Mayor Sylvester Turner’s 2016 flood relief committee and Turnaround Houston, a job readiness initiative of the city.
“Derek is undoubtedly an asset to the City of Houston,” said Marsha E. Murray deputy director for OBO. “He has exhibited a good understanding and execution of his job responsibilities and has led the implementation of process and policy changes.”
Holmes believes his volunteerism and role with the city go hand-in-hand.
“My department does so much for small businesses. It’s easy for me to step outside of my role and volunteer with other areas in my department and get people out to events or know people who may be able to benefit from that,” Holmes said.
“I enjoy galvanizing individuals in my community to build a better tomorrow for themselves and others,” he said.