Clarence Lovelady, 58, came to Jackson 40 years ago to attend Jackson State University from his hometown of Forest. Lovelady majored in English Education, and later returned for a masters in public policy and administration and then a PhD from Ole Miss.
"I've spent most of my professional career in state government. I was in state service 29 years, mostly in the Mississippi Department of Education," Lovelady said.
Everything changed in 2002, when Lovelady decided it was time to retire from the Department. "I had spent time traveling, meeting with superintendents, principals, and students. I wanted to do something different, but stay close to children. An opportunity became available."
He started working with the Amachi branch of Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Mississippi, one of four major programs under the Big Brothers-Big Sisters umbrella. Amachi is for children who have a parent that is incarcerated. "These are children, ages 5 to 14, who through no fault of their own, are denied day-to-day contact with one of their parents," Lovelady said.
Lovelady knows firsthand the benefits of the program. "I mentor a little boy, 9 years of age. He's special. This is my third year mentoring him. … I enjoy mentoring him, the time with him, as much as anything I do," Lovelady said.
You don't have to change your life to be a mentor, he says. "A mentor invites their little brother or sister to participate with them in what they are already doing in their life. A mentor might go shopping, go to the movies, go to a Friday night football game, go out for pizza, or go fishing with their little brother or little sister,"
Lovelady spends his time traveling, making presentations, and encouraging people to mentor the children. "I recruit volunteers. These volunteers are special, too, in that they are members of the church. I am constantly addressing church pastors, congregation, and auxiliaries. That's where we recruit. ... These are young children, our children, the future of Mississippi," Lovelady said. "They're going to become the civic leaders, the teachers, the mayors, the elected officials, the parents. They're the future. If we see them as such, we need to take very seriously our responsibility, our opportunity to mentor them."
Lovelady, 58, shows no signs of slowing down. "I plan to do this as long as I can. I don't see this as a job; I see it as a ministry, he said."