BY CRAIG COLEY
When Brian Richardson was being raised by a single mother in Saginaw, Michigan, he knew that as a black youth attending schools with poor reputations, conventional wisdom held that he wasn’t going to go very far in life. Richardson had other plans. Today, he’s assistant director of diversity and inclusion at the Indiana University School of Public Health and the founder of a mentoring program for young men at Fairview Elementary School.
“To see how far I’ve come from that type of situation?” Richardson says. “I wanted to show kids they could do the same thing.”
Two years ago, he started Krimson Leadership Academy (KLA). Every Friday for 10 weeks, 12 to 15 young men meet for an hour to learn skills such as speaking with confidence, interview etiquette, and how to tie a necktie.
He chose the letter “k” in Krimson for a reason. It pays homage to Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, which Richardson joined as a student at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri. Many of the lessons Richardson teaches in KLA were instilled in him when, as a high school student, he participated in a similar mentoring program run by a Kappa Alpha Psi alumni group.
“Once you see people who look like you who are doing things that you didn’t think possible, it starts to look like an option,” Richardson says. “I think those things are very important in the development of young men growing up.”
Tammy Groomer, grandmother and guardian of Aveion Mumma, 12, has seen the program’s impact on her grandson. “I’ve gotten phone calls from the principal about how well he’s doing,” Groomer says. “He’s learning more leadership. He greets everyone in school. They call him the mayor of Fairview.”
Whitney Thomas is the student and family advocate at Fairview. She recruits students for the program. “KLA has been awesome for Fairview,” Thomas says. “The biggest impact is that the boys develop relationships with Brian and his volunteers. They’ve been able to have a sense of community, or as he likes to call it, a brotherhood.”
For the 2017–18 school year, members of IU’s Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity joined Richardson. “It’s an ‘aha’ moment for both sides,” Richardson says. “These young kids see these older guys and think, ‘Wow, you look like me; I want to be like you when I grow up.’ And for the college students, it’s like, ‘This is bigger than me. I have an opportunity to inspire someone.’”
Richardson has been developing a training manual so KLA can expand to other schools. “We’re redefining what cool is,” Richardson says. “To be cool you can be smart.”