Growing up in Altadena with just his mom, Loyola High School graduate Corey O’Rane-Ealy didn’t have a lot of black male role models in his life.
He learned to tie his own tie and shave on his own, only to realize much later, after some painful results, that he was shaving the wrong way. His barber corrected him.
These are the little things a boy on his own might grow up with. But there were some bigger things, too.
Although he did OK in school, O’Rane-Ealy recalled, he didn’t make grades for the honor roll until he was a sophomore or junior. The drastic improvement coincided with when he began to meet a contingent of local black businessmen through the Gamma Zeta Boulé Foundation. After a few discussions, O’Rane-Ealy learned just how hard some of the most successful had worked in school. He learned, quite frankly, that he needed to step up his game if he wanted to go to college.
“I started off kind of rough … but getting the encouragement and guidance to work hard, that was part of it; it kind of brought it home, to see how real and how competitive it is out there,” said O’Rane-Ealy, who, as a 9th-grader, was selected for the Gamma Zeta Boulé Foundation’s local mentorship program, LAMP. “They’ve done a great job in mentoring us and teaching us how to compete in the academic world in order to achieve everything we want. Some of the people we met showed us how hard they’d had to work to get where they are now.”
This year, O’Rane-Ealy was one of seven students in the LAMP Mentor class of 2018 from the Greater Pasadena area who graduated from high school recently and received more than $30,000 in scholarships toward college.
Through the LAMP Mentor Program (for leadership, achievement, management and professionalism), O’Rane-Ealy has attended a multitude of high-profile events and workshops with a group of professionals who share management and leadership techniques and concepts. The 10-month curriculum provides participants with leadership skills over a four-year period, teaching the young men the value of professional and entrepreneurial careers. They are taught social skills, dress and manners required for the development of personal and business relationships. Emphasis is placed on how to look, act and speak like a leader and a professional.
O’Rane-Ealy, who will attend Santa Clara University to study economics in the fall, said he chose his area of study after he heard from a financial adviser who owned his own insurance company and came to talk to the group.
“He was very inspiring and energetic — my interest in the business realm really grew from that, it kind of motivated me to reach out and look into it more,” said O’Rane-Ealy, who received a full tuition scholarship to attend Santa Clara in the fall.
Success stories like O’Rane-Ealy’s are exactly how the fraternity’s members know the LAMP is working. Begun in 2009 through the Gamma Zeta Boulé Foundation, LAMP is beginning to sow the fruits of “generational change,” said Foundation President Ramsay Jay Jr.
At a recent luncheon to celebrate the students’ graduation and award scholarships, Jay noted that a former mentee of the program had returned — now a business professional — to help sponsor a young scholar.
“That was really the essence of what we’ve wanted to see. Usually, it takes three generations of that inflection point to change generational outcomes, to see the dividends of the outcomes,” Jay said. “Young African Americans are coming back and sponsoring the future of other young African Americans. That is real, generational transformation.”
Jay pointed to the two major components of LAMP’s mission: access and exposure. The student group is exposed continuously to cultural sites they might not visit otherwise, including museums and libraries, as well as business hubs like Century City and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“The LAMP program fires a major panacea at the issues of access and exposure. You’ve got to have both consistently to get those positive outcomes. An instant access ticket does not translate to permanent access. That’s what we do — help maintain that exposure around the calendar, run a dual track, teach how to maintain the exposure once access has been given,” Jay said. “Access and exposure among African American males is currently below average, and needs to be above average.”
At the recent luncheon to celebrate the young graduates, Gamma Zeta Boulé members praised the mentorship program, both the mentors and the mentees.
Raphael Henderson, Gamma Zeta Boulé sire archon, who has been a member for five years, said the nonprofit’s mission to uplift young African Americans in the local community is irreplaceable.
Looking back at his own upbringing, he recalled, having contact with successful men who looked like himself was of utmost importance.
“Being African American, to have someone who looks like you in a professional capacity to extend themselves to you is an overwhelming opportunity that goes way beyond just a Saturday event,” he said. “These young men come into contact with some of the most influential African American men in the community, if not the city. And these aren’t sports figures, they aren’t actors or entertainers. These are professionals. And to have a fellow professional convey through one-on-one contact what possibilities are out there, that’s a phenomenal experience for the young men.”
Now, with some of the first mentees coming back to Pasadena, Henderson is seeing the advantage the program has given.
“Later having gotten that tutelage, that leverage, they go on to do incredible things,” he noted.
Activities among the monthly LAMP meetings vary from site visits to mock interviews to cooking classes. Workshops include leadership/management, financial literacy, public service and philanthropy, and college preparation, to name a few.
There also was an event to discuss how the young men should handle themselves if they are pulled over by the police.
LAMP mentee and recent Village Christian High School graduate James Wilcox praised that training in particular.
“In the current landscape of our nation, being an African American male, that is definitely something you need to know how to handle, so I thought that was crucial and extremely important,” Wilcox said.
Fellow mentee Maasai Moore also noted the camaraderie of the other young men was equally important.
“You meet this group of young men that are also like you, in the way they want to be better than the rest and they’re striving for excellence,” he said. “It’s good to surround yourself with people like that and to know young black men that are really trying, just to do the best they can, be the best they can in life, and that’s incredible.”
Some of Pasadena’s local lawmakers attended the recent luncheon, lending their support and praise to the group.
State Assemblyman Chris Holden told Gamma Zeta Boulé members that they are making an impact, not just in the San Gabriel Valley but across the country.
“We have to continue to prepare our young people so they will have not only the intellect, but the character and integrity to bring leadership not only to this state and country, but to the world,” Holden told the crowd. “I know we’re in great hands. I’m grateful for this community. There are a lot of things you could be doing with your time, but you’re sending the seed back into the soil.”
Another successful aspect of LAMP has been teaching the young men how to give back through community service and how to be role models themselves, for other family members or younger students.
This will come into play again, Jay noted, when the men graduate and come back to their community as professionals.
“Empowering generational excellence. When you talk about generational empowerment, you are witnessing what is possible when generations build brotherhood built on scholarship, aptitude and achievement, to come back and support each other,” he said.
Giving back is something that O’Rane-Ealy has already given a lot of thought to. He looks forward to reuniting with his LAMP peers over the holidays, and then, further down the line, too.
“I’ve thought a lot about that, about coming back some day and giving the same opportunity to another kid — that would be a great chance,” he said, adding, “I’ll know a lot about they’re going through.”