Imagine a world where every child received continuous encouragement, motivation and love — the nurturing formula needed to help any youngster navigate life’s challenges successfully.
Approaching their 28th wedding anniversary on Sept. 26, longtime Detroiters Gerald and Minner Latham say that vision can be a reality in their city and they are doing their parts to make it happen at the King of Kings Missionary Baptist Church.
“We stress education along with spiritual guidance,” said Gerald, a 15-year member of the church. “We’re always talking to the kids about education.”
And the talk is backed up with action.
Located at 10416 E. Warren Avenue, King of Kings is a small church with roughly 120 members. However, the church’s approach to touching the lives of its youth members is anything but small.
“When one child sees how you open yourself and love them regardless, it spreads,” said Minner, a 20-year member of King of Kings. “They share that with the children they come into contact with and then you attract more.”
Uncle Gerald and Auntie Minner, as they are affectionately known by most of their young church members, wear many hats including managing the C.D. Glass Scholarship Fund, named after the church’s former pastor, Clyde Daniel Glass, and started by the church’s current pastor, Michael C. Johnson.
Supported by donations from members and church fund-raisers, the King of Kings scholarship program has awarded 11 $500 scholarships since 2003. An additional five students have received scholarships of lesser amounts and any student in the church who advances to the next grade can expect a little cash as well.
“Our pastor doesn’t want any young person to walk away without something in their hand,” Gerald said. “We really encourage and reward achievement.”
Despite what is often said about Detroit youth, Gerald believes King of Kings is proving that ongoing encouragement can go a long way towards ensuring future success, particularly with African-American boys.
“In our first group of scholarship recipients was Donnie Ford, who went to Michigan Tech and graduated in June with a degree in computer science. And in the fall he’s going back to school to pursue a master’s in engineering,” said Gerald. “Donnie has definitely set an example and he set the bar high. The other young men see that and they don’t want to fall short.”
Some of the other young men include Darius Ganzie, a Ferris State junior majoring in electrical engineering; Samuel Johnson, a junior chemical engineering major at Triune University (Indiana); and Timothy Johnson, a sophomore psychology major at Cleveland State. Joining them in the collegiate ranks this fall from the church will be Trevor Brazelton, James Johnson, Jamal Clark and Michael Ganzie, who will be attending Roosevelt University (Chicago), Indiana Tech, Wayne State and Wayne County Community College respectively.
“We are so critical of this generation and when they do well we need to commend them,” said Pastor Johnson, who launched the scholarship fund by challenging 20 church members to give $1 a week for 50 weeks.
Paving the way for the scholarships and college admissions is the day-to-day contact adults have with King of Kings’ youth members.