Jerome Baker was acutely aware of the lack of adult role models in his native Central neighborhood. As a father of four, he understands how important dads are to helping kids navigate their way to adulthood. And in Central, with 80 percent of children living in poverty and in female-headed households, primarily in public or publicly-subsidized housing, male role models are even more important.

Jerome himself grew up in public housing.

So it was that in 2006, Jerome founded Men of Central with a mission to get men to mentor boys ages 8-14 years old. He brought together African-American men from the neighborhood who recognize the importance of positive male role models in the lives of young men to make a difference.

“Our goal is to bridge the gap of understanding, misunderstanding, support, and friendship with the youth, and to assist them in becoming productive citizens of the community,” he said.

Men of Central focuses on assisting youth with after school tutoring, social development, gang prevention, recreational participation (basketball, boxing, football, swimming, baseball) and the arts, including photography.

Jerome is tireless in his desire to bring about change, as well as highlight the history and the potential in the Central Neighborhood. He’s written two books on the history of the neighborhood.

In 2011, he became a “Promise Ambassador” for the Cleveland Central Promise Initiative. Promise Ambassadors are the leaders and emissaries in the neighborhood for this collaborative program that works with residents, providers and others to ensure the children in the neighborhood are ready for kindergarten, go to good schools, have strong systems of family and community supports to help ensure they graduate from high school and go on to college or other training and on to a career.

He also helped establish Women of Central, with a focus on women mentoring young girls. His efforts have been recognized by the Center for Community Solutions, which honored him with their Most Treasured Volunteer Award.

Jerome is a graduate of Neighborhood Leadership Cleveland Class 24 and is is nearing completion on his Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration from Chancellor University. His dedication to children extends to his work as a Case Manager at YWCA of Cleveland.

Learn more about his work at www.menofcentral.org.